Reactive oxygen species: a novel antimicrobial

Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2018 Mar;51(3):299-303. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2017.08.029. Epub 2017 Sep 5.


The main solution to the global antibiotic resistance crisis is to reduce the volume of antibiotic use in medicine, agriculture and the environment. However, there is also a pressing need for novel antimicrobials. Despite much rhetoric, there are few entirely novel agents in development. One such therapy to reach clinical use is an agent using Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), oxygen radicals, as an antimicrobial mechanism. ROS can be delivered to the site of infection in various formats. ROS are highly antimicrobial against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, viruses and fungi. They also prevent and break down biofilm. These functions make ROS potentially highly suitable for chronic inflammatory conditions, where antibiotics are frequently overused and relatively ineffective, including: chronic wounds, ulcers and burns; chronic rhinosinusitis, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis and ventilated airways; recurrent cystitis; and prosthetic device infection. ROS could have an important role in infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship. Much clinical investigation remains to be delivered on ROS therapy, but in vitro work on infection models and early clinical evaluations are extremely promising.

Keywords: Antimicrobial stewardship; Novel antimicrobial; Reactive oxygen; Surgihoney; Topical treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / pharmacology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / therapeutic use
  • Viruses / drug effects


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species