A study has found hydroquinone, a naturally occurring compound, able to "kill" major drug-resistant bacteria. Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency


  • Study reveals how growth of bacteria that can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), or other regions of the body following surgery can be drastically curbed by hydroquinone.
  • Expression levels of virulence factors in Pseudomonas aeruginosa changed drastically, according to a recent study published in the journal Antibiotics.

Portsmouth: Scientists studying how an organic molecule affects bacteria that are resistant to drugs have found that it can suppress and destroy a pathogen that can cause significant disease or, in some circumstances, death.

Often seen in hospital patients, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of bacteria that can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), or other regions of the body following surgery.


Recently, it was shown that the germ and several other clinically significant bacteria — including as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella pneumonia — were susceptible to the bacterial killing action of hydroquinone, an organic chemical found in the bark of some trees.

The research team, made up of members from the University of Portsmouth, Naresuan University, and Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University in Thailand, has since looked at the molecular reactions of various strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to hydroquinone.

In order to do this, they examined which genes the medication activated and which ones it turned off.

Obstructing assemble, movement of germs

Hydroquinone drastically changes the expression levels of virulence factors in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, according to a recent study published in the journal Antibiotics. Additionally, it implies that the substance obstructs the assembly and movement of the germs.

Dr. Robert Baldock from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, said: "There's quite a long list of antibiotics that don't work on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but our experiments found some of the genes governing the motility of the bacterium were quite drastically switched off by hydroquinone. Biofilm formation and the swarming and swimming off the germ were significantly reduced."

Making antibiotics more effective

"If we know that this drug is working in a really unique or different way, then it firstly explains why it's active on these drug-resistant cells, but it also means that you can potentially look at combining it with other existing antibiotics to make them more effective."

More than 2.8 million infections are caused by drug-resistant bacteria, which also cause 35,000 fatalities each year.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria evolve and stop responding to drugs over time, making it challenging to treat infections.

Antibiotics resistance

Antibiotics that are often used — yet to which some strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa have developed resistance — include amoxicillin and trimethoprim. In addition to being used to treat nocturnal muscle cramps in the Netherlands, hydroquinine is already recognised to be an effective treatment for human malaria.

Little research has been done up until now on its drug-resistant traits.

Dr Jirapas Jongjitwimol from the Department of Medical Technology at Naresuan University added: "Antimicrobial resistance has become one of the greatest threats to public health globally, so to discover an organic compound has the potential to be used as an effective weapon in the fight is very exciting.

"We now need to look at how the compound works against a wider variety of bacterial strains so that we better understand why some germs are affected or not affected by it."