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Vinegar Kills Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Update Date: Feb 25, 2014 02:25 PM EST

Vinegar effectively destroys tuberculosis and other mycobacteria, according to a new study.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that vinegar could be used as a cheap and non-toxic disinfectant against tuberculosis bacteria and other drug-resistant bacteria.

"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 cosmetic procedures, they cause serious infections. Innately resistant to most antibiotics, they require months of therapy and can leave deforming scars," senior author Howard Takiff, the head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation (IVIC) in Caracas, said in a news release.

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

Researchers discovered that exposure to a 6 percent solution of acetic acid, which is justly slightly more concentrated than supermarket vinegar, for 30 minutes reduced the numbers of tuberculosis mycobacteria from around 100 million to undetectable levels. Researchers said this was true even for strains resistant to almost all antibiotics.

Researchers also tested vinegar against M. abscessus, one of the most resistant and pathogenic of the non-TB mycobacteria, and found that exposure to 10 percent acetic acid solution for 30 minutes to be effectively eliminated the bacteria.

"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," said Takiff. "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 acetic acid."

"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," Takiff concluded. 

The findings are published in the journal mBio®.

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