University of Gothenburg

Antibacterial Biocides

It is not only antibiotics that can drive resistance development, but also co-selection from antibacterial biocides (i.e., chemicals with antibacterial properties that are not used for treating infections).

These include metals and numerous organic biocides used, for example, as disinfectants in health care, as antifoulants, as preservatives, or as antibacterial agents on clothes and in household products. In addition to their specific sites of applications, biocides are widely disseminated in the environment, particularly via wastewater streams, into waterways and eventually oceans. While well justified in certain settings (e.g. disinfection in hospitals), our extensive use is likely to promote antibiotic resistance. Globally, bacteria are exposed to orders of magnitude more biocides than antibiotics. Their role in the development of antibiotic resistance must therefore be carefully gauged and controlled.

Larsson coordinates the research project BIOCIDE ( with members from several European countries. The overall aim of BIOCIDE is to determine how antibacterial biocides contribute to the development and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in different aquatic/marine ecosystems, and to inform and enable measures that ultimately protects human health and safe water resources for both humans and wildlife. Generated data will include 1) exposure levels in different matrices, 2) concentrations that are likely to co-select for antibiotic resistance and promote horizontal gene transfer, 3) identification of predominant and novel genetic mechanisms for co-selection, as well as 4) a risk assessment. As part of the BIOCIDE project, we will also revise our widely used database on metal and biocide resistance genes – BacMet (

Examples of papers

Jutkina J, Marathe NP, Flach C-F, Larsson DGJ. (2018). Antibiotics and common antibacterial biocides stimulate horizontal transfer of resistance at low concentrations. Sci Total Environ. 616-617:172.

Pal C, Asiani K, Arya S, Rensing C, Stekel DJ, Larsson DGJ, Hobman JL. (2017). Metal resistance and its association with antibiotic resistance. Adv Microb Physiol. 70:261 ISBN: 9780128123867.

Pal C, Bengtsson-Palme J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ. (2015) Co-occurrence of resistance genes to antibiotics, biocides and metals reveals novel insights into their co-selection potential. BMC Genomics. 16:964.