Acetic acid can kill tuberculosis and other mycobacteria

An international research team reported that acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, can effectively kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis, even highly resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Therefore, acetic acid may be used as a cheap and non-toxic disinfectant against drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other stubborn and disinfectant resistant mycobacteria. Research on its potential uses continues, from disinfecting medical equipment to using it as a general disinfectant.

Acetic acid can be used as a cheap and non-toxic disinfectant against drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other stubborn, disinfectant resistant mycobacteria.

There is a serious risk of biological harm when dealing with drug-resistant TB bacteria. Chlorine bleach is usually used to disinfect tuberculosis cultures and clinical samples, but it is toxic and corrosive. Other effective commercial disinfectants may be too expensive for tuberculosis laboratories in resource poor countries, where most tuberculosis occurs.

“Mycobacterium is known to cause tuberculosis and leprosy, but non tuberculosis mycobacteria are very common in the environment, even in tap water, and are resistant to commonly used disinfectants. When they pollute the place of surgery or cosmetic surgery, they will cause serious infection. They are inherently resistant to most antibiotics, requiring months of treatment, and may leave deformed scars.” Howard Takiff, senior author of the study and head of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory of the Venezuela Institute of Scientific Investigation (IVIC) in Caracas, said.

“In developing countries, many cosmetic operations are performed outside hospitals, where there is no effective disinfectant.” Takiff said, “These bacteria are new pathogens. How can you get rid of them?”

When studying the ability of nontuberculous mycobacteria to resist disinfectants and antibiotics, Claudia Cortesia, a postdoctoral fellow of Takiff, accidentally discovered the ability of vinegar to kill mycobacteria. When testing a drug that needs to be dissolved in acetic acid, Cortesia found that only using the control agent of acetic acid could kill the mycobacterium she wanted to study.

“After Claudia’s initial observation, we tested the minimum concentration and exposure time to kill different mycobacteria,” said Tackov. Since the Venezuelan laboratory did not study clinical tuberculosis, Catherine Vilch è ze and William Jacobs Jr., collaborators of Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, tested tuberculosis strains and found that exposing 6% acetic acid solution for 30 minutes could effectively kill tuberculosis, even strains resistant to almost all antibiotics.

In other words, 30 minutes of exposure to 6% acetic acid (the concentration is slightly higher than that of supermarket vinegar) can reduce the number of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from about 100 million to an undetectable level.

During his vacation in Laurent Kremer Laboratory of Montpellier University in France, Takiff tested the effectiveness of acetic acid on Mycobacterium abscessum, which is one of the most drug-resistant and pathogenic non tuberculosis mycobacteria.

Mycobacterium abscessum needs to be exposed to a stronger 10% acetic acid solution for 30 minutes to be effectively eliminated. The research team also tested the activity of acetic acid under biological “dirty” conditions similar to clinical conditions, added albumin and red blood cells to acetic acid, and found that it was still effective.

Takiff said: “There is a real need for disinfectants with low toxicity and low price that can eliminate tuberculosis and non tuberculosis mycobacteria, especially in resource poor countries.” He pointed out that even 25% acetic acid solution is only a mild irritant. About $100 can buy enough acetic acid to disinfect up to 20 liters of tuberculosis culture or clinical samples.

“For now, this is just an interesting observation. As a common disinfectant, vinegar has been used for thousands of years, and we only expanded the research on acetic acid from the early 20th century,” Tackov concluded. “Whether it can be used in clinical or mycobacterial laboratories to sterilize medical equipment or cultures or clinical specimens remains to be determined.”

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