The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

Ask ACI: Can using antibacterial products lead to superbugs?


The body of scientific evidence currently available indicates that the use of antibacterial products does not give rise to superbugs. Superbugs are bacteria types that have become resistant to the antiseptics and antibiotic agents which were designed to eliminate them. Consequently, superbugs are known to cause infections which are difficult to control. It is generally accepted that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has given rise to the known superbugs. As the amount of cleaning and disinfecting has risen during the pandemic, it’s understandable that there would be an increased concern that more use of antiseptics and biocides would increase the occurrence of bacterial resistance and associated diseases but this outcome remains unseen and unproven. Laboratory studies have shown that when bacteria are exposed to antiseptics in a test tube some bacteria can become more resistant to the antiseptics. For some this has influenced their adoption of a precautionary avoidance of using antiseptic and biocide products. However, in the real world following the use of antiseptic and biocide products there is no clear evidence that these activities give rise to the occurrence of resistant bacteria and associated disease. In the healthcare settings it is well known that implementing good hand hygiene and surface hygiene with the use of antiseptic and biocide products will prevent the transmission of infectious agents, including antibiotic resistant microorganisms and viruses. It should also be recognized that similarly implementing good hygiene practices in the home and community where necessary has a useful role in preventing the spread of resistant bacteria.