Staphylococcus epidermidis isolated in 1965 are more susceptible to triclosan than current isolates

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 16;8(4):e62197. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062197. Print 2013.

Abstract

Since its introduction to the market in the 1970s, the synthetic biocide triclosan has had widespread use in household and medical products. Although decreased triclosan susceptibility has been observed for several bacterial species, when exposed under laboratory settings, no in vivo studies have associated triclosan use with decreased triclosan susceptibility or cross-resistance to antibiotics. One major challenge of such studies is the lack of strains that with certainty have not been exposed to triclosan. Here we have overcome this challenge by comparing current isolates of the human opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus epidermidis with isolates collected in the 1960s prior to introduction of triclosan to the market. Of 64 current S. epidermidis isolates 12.5% were found to have tolerance towards triclosan defined as MIC≥0.25 mg/l compared to none of 34 isolates obtained in the 1960s. When passaged in the laboratory in the presence of triclosan, old and current susceptible isolates could be adapted to the same triclosan MIC level as found in current tolerant isolates. DNA sequence analysis revealed that laboratory-adapted strains carried mutations in fabI encoding the enoyl-acyl carrier protein reductase isoform, FabI, that is the target of triclosan, and the expression of fabI was also increased. However, the majority of the tolerant current isolates carried no mutations in fabI or the putative promoter region. Thus, this study indicates that the widespread use of triclosan has resulted in the occurrence of S. epidermidis with tolerance towards triclosan and that the adaptation involves FabI as well as other factors. We suggest increased caution in the general application of triclosan as triclosan has not shown efficacy in reducing infections and is toxic to aquatic organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects*
  • Time Factors
  • Triclosan / pharmacology*

Substances

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Triclosan

Grant support

Funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research, 09-0030. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.