The ongoing battle against multi-resistant strains: in-vitro inhibition of hospital-acquired MRSA, VRE, Pseudomonas, ESBL E. coli and Klebsiella species in the presence of plant-derived antiseptic oils

J Craniomaxillofac Surg. 2013 Jun;41(4):321-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcms.2012.10.012. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


The fight against hospital-acquired infections involving antibiotic-resistant microorganisms has become of critical concern to surgeons worldwide. In addition to the development of new effective antibiotic chemotherapy, exploration of 'forgotten' topical antibacterial agents from the pre-antibiotic era has recently gained new attention. We report the promising efficacy of plant-derived antiseptic oils used in traditional aboriginal and south-east Asian treatments such as Lemongrass, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree Oil in the inhibition of clinical isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), multi-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, ESBL-producing Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae in the in-vitro setting. Large consistent zones of inhibition were observed for all three plant-derived oils tested in an agar diffusion test. The commonly used antibacterial agents chlorhexidine 0.1%, and ethanol (70%), and standard olive oil consistently demonstrated notably lower or no efficacy in regard to growth inhibition of strains. Notably, Lemongrass oil proved to be particularly active against gram-positive bacteria, while Tea Tree oil showed superior inhibition of gram-negative microorganisms. As proven in vitro, plant-derived antiseptic oils may represent a promising and affordable topical agent to support surgical treatment against multi-resistant and hospital-acquired infections.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Chlorhexidine / pharmacology
  • Cymbopogon
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / drug effects*
  • Enterococcus / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Eucalyptus
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Humans
  • Immunodiffusion
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / drug effects*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Olive Oil
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects*
  • Tea Tree Oil / pharmacology
  • Terpenes / pharmacology
  • Vancomycin Resistance
  • beta-Lactamases / drug effects


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Disinfectants
  • Eucalyptus terpene oil
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils
  • Terpenes
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Ethanol
  • lemongrass oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • beta-Lactamases
  • Chlorhexidine