Aims: The aim of this study was to compare both the antimicrobial activity of terpinen-4-ol and tea tree oil (TTO) against clinical skin isolates of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) and their toxicity against human fibroblast cells.
Methods and results: Antimicrobial activity was compared by using broth microdilution and quantitative in vitro time-kill test methods. Terpinen-4-ol exhibited significantly greater bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity, as measured by minimum inhibitory and bactericidal concentrations, respectively, than TTO against both MRSA and CoNS isolates. Although not statistically significant, time-kill studies also clearly showed that terpinen-4-ol exhibited greater antimicrobial activity than TTO. Comparison of the toxicity of terpinen-4-ol and TTO against human fibroblasts revealed that neither agent, at the concentrations tested, were toxic over the 24-h test period.
Conclusions: Terpinen-4-ol is a more potent antibacterial agent against MRSA and CoNS isolates than TTO with neither agent exhibiting toxicity to fibroblast cells at the concentrations tested.
Significance and impact of the study: Terpinen-4-ol should be considered for inclusion as a single agent in products formulated for topical treatment of MRSA infection. However, further work would initially be required to ensure that resistance would not develop with the use of terpinen-4-ol as a single agent.