Triclosan and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria: an overview

Microb Drug Resist. 2006 Summer;12(2):83-90. doi: 10.1089/mdr.2006.12.83.


Triclosan is a widely used biocide that is considered as an effective antimicrobial agent against different microorganisms. It is included in many contemporary consumer and personal health-care products, like oral and dermal products, but also in household items, including plastics and textiles. At bactericidal concentrations, triclosan appears to act upon multiple nonspecific targets, causing disruption of bacterial cell wall functions, while at sublethal concentrations, triclosan affects specific targets. During the 1990s, bacterial isolates with reduced susceptibility to triclosan were produced in laboratory experiments by repeated exposure to sublethal concentrations of the agent. Since 2000, a number of studies have verified the occurrence of triclosan resistance amongst dermal, intestinal, and environmental microorganisms, including some of clinical relevance. Of major concern is the possibility that triclosan resistance may contribute to reduced susceptibility to clinically important antimicrobials, due to either cross-resistance or co-resistance mechanisms. Although the number of studies elucidating the association between triclosan resistance and resistance to other antimicrobials in clinical isolates has been limited, recent laboratory studies have confirmed the potential for such a link in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. Thus, widespread use of triclosan may represent a potential public health risk in regard to development of concomitant resistance to clinically important antimicrobials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Triclosan / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Triclosan