Antibacterial activity of anesthetic solutions and preservatives: an in vitro comparative study

Cornea. 2000 May;19(3):353-4. doi: 10.1097/00003226-200005000-00019.


Purpose: To investigate the antibacterial activity of topical anesthetic solutions and their preservatives individually in vitro, to determine involvement with bacterial growth inhibition.

Material and methods: Proparacaine and tetracaine (in concentrations of 0.125%, 0.25%, and 0.50%), edetate disodium (EDTA), benzalkonium chloride, EDTA + benzalkonium chloride, and sterile saline solution were used. Five microliters of each solution were applied to standard filter paper disks and placed in Mueller-Hinton agar previously inoculated with known strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Zones of growth inhibition were measured 24 hours later and analyzed.

Results: There were no zones of inhibition in the agar inoculated with P. aeruginosa to all tested solutions. Benzalkonium chloride alone and associated with EDTA inhibited growth of S. aureus. All other solutions did not inhibit S. aureus.

Conclusion: Preservative-free anesthetic solutions seemed not to interfere with bacterial development in culture media. Benzalkonium chloride alone and associated with EDTA inhibited development of gram positive bacteria, S. aureus, but did not inhibit P. aeruginosa.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Benzalkonium Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / pharmacology
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / pharmacology*
  • Propoxycaine / pharmacology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Tetracaine / pharmacology


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Benzalkonium Compounds
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Tetracaine
  • proxymetacaine
  • Propoxycaine