Vinegar kills tuberculosis and other mycobacteria

February 25, 2014, American Society for Microbiology

The active ingredient in vinegar, acetic acid, can effectively kill mycobacteria, even highly drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an international team of researchers from Venezuela, France, and the US reports in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Acetic acid might be used as an inexpensive and non-toxic disinfectant against drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria as well as other stubborn, disinfectant-resistant mycobacteria.

Work with drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria carries serious biohazard risks. Chlorine bleach is often used to disinfect TB cultures and clinical samples, but bleach is toxic and corrosive. Other effective commercial disinfectants can be too expensive for TB labs in the resource-poor countries where the majority of TB occurs.

"Mycobacteria are known to cause tuberculosis and leprosy, but non-TB mycobacteria are common in the environment, even in tap water, and are resistant to commonly used disinfectants. When they contaminate the sites of surgery or , they cause serious infections. Innately resistant to most antibiotics, they require months of therapy and can leave deforming scars." says Howard Takiff, senior author on the study and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation (IVIC) in Caracas.

"Many cosmetic procedures are performed outside of hospital settings in developing countries, where effective disinfectants are not available." Takiff says, "These bacteria are emerging pathogens. How do you get rid of them?"

While investigating the ability of non-TB mycobacteria to resist disinfectants and antibiotics, Takiff's postdoctoral fellow, Claudia Cortesia stumbled upon vinegar's ability to kill mycobacteria. Testing a drug that needed to be dissolved in acetic acid, Cortesia found that the control, with acetic acid alone, killed the mycobacteria she wanted to study.

"After Claudia's initial observation, we tested for the minimal concentrations and exposure times that would kill different mycobacteria," says Takiff. Since the Venezuelan lab does not work with clinical TB, collaborators Catherine Vilchèze and William Jacobs, Jr. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York tested TB strains and found that exposure to a 6% solution of acetic acid for 30 minutes effectively kills tuberculosis, even strains resistant to almost all antibiotics.

Said another way, exposure to 6% acetic acid, just slightly more concentrated than supermarket vinegar, for 30 minutes, reduced the numbers of TB mycobacteria from around 100 million to undetectable levels.

During a sabbatical in Laurent Kremer's laboratory at the University of Montpellier 2 in France, Takiff tested how effective acetic acid was against M. abscessus, one of the most resistant and pathogenic of the non-TB mycobacteria.

M. abscessus required exposure to a stronger 10% acetic acid solution for 30 minutes to be effectively eliminated. The team also tested the activity under biologically 'dirty' conditions similar to those encountered in clinical situations, by adding albumin protein and red blood cells to the acetic acid and found it was still effective.

"There is a real need for less toxic and less expensive disinfectants that can eliminate TB and non-TB mycobacteria, especially in resource-poor countries," says Takiff. He notes that even a 25% solution of acetic acid is only a minor irritant and around US$100 can buy enough acetic acid to disinfect up to 20 liters of TB cultures or clinical samples.

"For now this is simply an interesting observation. Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a common disinfectant and we merely extended studies from the early 20th century on ," concludes Takiff. "Whether it could be useful in the clinic or mycobacteriology labs for sterilizing medical equipment or disinfecting cultures or clinical specimens remains to be determined."

Explore further: Insights into how TB tricks the immune system could help combat the disease

Related Stories

Insights into how TB tricks the immune system could help combat the disease

October 23, 2013
Researchers have identified a potential way to manipulate the immune system to improve its ability to fight off tuberculosis (TB).

Study finds vitamin C can kill drug-resistant TB (w/ video)

May 21, 2013
In a striking, unexpected discovery, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have determined that vitamin C kills drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in laboratory culture. The finding ...

Team develops way to make old antibiotic work against TB

January 27, 2014
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have discovered a promising new class of antibiotics that could aid efforts to overcome drug-resistance in tuberculosis (TB), a global killer. The drugs increased survival ...

Mycobacterium tuberculosis: Our African follower for over 70,000 years

September 1, 2013
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of deadliest infectious diseases of humans, killing 50% of individuals when left untreated. Even today, TB causes 1-2 million deaths every year mainly in developing countries. Multidrug-resistance ...

Study finds TB strains in Russia becoming both more resistant to drugs and faster evolving

January 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found that bacteria responsible for Tuberculosis (TB) are becoming more resistant to drugs in Russia than are strains in other parts of the world. In their paper ...

Recommended for you

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.