Bacterial Resistance to Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC) Disinfectants

  • Robert BraggEmail author
  • Arina Jansen
  • Marisa Coetzee
  • Wouter van der Westhuizen
  • Charlotte Boucher
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 808)


Control of bacterial diseases has, for many years, been dependent on the use of antibiotics. Due to the high levels of efficacy of antibiotics in the past other disease control options have, to a large extent, been neglected. Mankind is now facing an increasing problem with antibiotic resistance. In an effort to retain some antibiotics for human use, there are moves afoot to limit or even ban the use of antibiotics in animal production. The use of antibiotics as growth promoters have been banned in the European Union and the USA. The potential ban on the use of antibiotics to treat diseases in production animals creates a dilemma for man—suffer significant problem with bacterial infection or suffer from a severe shortage of food! There are other options for the control of bacterial diseases. These include vaccine development, bacteriophage therapy, and improved biosecurity. Vaccine development against bacterial pathogens, particularly opportunistic pathogens, is often very challenging, as in many cases the molecular basis of the virulence is not always clearly understood. This is particularly true for Escherichia coli. Biosecurity (disinfection) has been a highly neglected area in disease control. With the ever-increasing problems with antibiotic resistance—the focus should return to improvements in biosecurity. As with antibiotics, bacteria also have mechanisms for resistance to disinfectants. To ensure that we do not replace one set of problems (increasing antibiotic resistance) with another (increasing resistance to disinfectants) we need to fully understand the modes of action of disinfectants and how the bacteria develop resistance to these disinfectants. Molecular studies have been undertaken to relate the presence of QAC resistance genes in bacteria to their levels of sensitivity to different generations of QAC-based products. The mode of action of QAC on bacteria has been studied using NanoSAM technology, where it was revealed that the QAC causes disruption of the bacterial cell wall and leaking of the cytoplasm out of the cells. Our main focus is on the control of bacterial and viral diseases in the poultry industry in a post-antibiotic era, but the principles remain similar for disease control in any veterinary field as well as in human medicine.


Disinfectant Biosecurity Antibiotic resistance NanoSAM Staphylococcus aureus 


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Bragg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arina Jansen
    • 1
  • Marisa Coetzee
    • 1
  • Wouter van der Westhuizen
    • 1
  • Charlotte Boucher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food BiotechnologyUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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