Acetic Acid Kills Tuberculosis and Other Mycobacteria

May 14, 2014

Acetic Acid Kills Tuberculosis and Other Mycobacteria

An international team of researchers from Venezuela, France and the U.S. published research in mBio ®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology related to the use of vinegar to kill mycobacteria, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The abstract for the study titled, “Acetic Acid, the Active Component of Vinegar, Is an Effective Tuberculocidal Disinfectant,” is provided below:

Effective and economical mycobactericidal disinfectants are needed to kill both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and non-M. tuberculosis mycobacteria. We found that acetic acid (vinegar) efficiently kills M. tuberculosis after 30 min of exposure to a 6% acetic acid solution. The activity is not due to pH alone, and propionic acid also appears to be bactericidal. M. bolletii and M. massiliense nontuberculous mycobacteria were more resistant, although a 30-min exposure to 10% acetic acid resulted in at least a 6-log 10 reduction of viable bacteria. Acetic acid (vinegar) is an effective mycobactericidal disinfectant that should also be active against most other bacteria. These findings are consistent with and extend the results of studies performed in the early and mid-20th century on the disinfectant capacity of organic acids.

The research article notes that acetic acid or vinegar were used, but “Commercial white vinegar was used whenever possible.”  The authors went on to note the following:

Acetic acid is relatively inexpensive—2.5 liters of 99% acetic acid costs less than US$100 and could effectively disinfect up to 20 liters of M. tuberculosis cultures or sputa. Commercial vinegar bought in supermarkets was used wherever possible in the experiments described here, but the concentrations vary from country to country. Commercial vinegar could be used at effective concentrations for M. smegmatis or M. tuberculosis in France, where it is sold as 8% acetic acid, but not in the United States or Venezuela, where vinegar is sold as 5% acetic acid. While longer-chain organic acids may have better bactericidal activity, acetic acid (vinegar) is relatively nontoxic, inexpensive, and available, which could make it an effective, economical biocide for disinfecting M. tuberculosis from clinical specimens, cultures, and laboratory surfaces, and it would be particularly useful in low-income countries. The high-level capacity of acetic acid in killing mycobacteria, regarded as the most disinfectant-resistant bacteria due to the structure of their lipid-rich cell walls ( 4 ), suggests that perhaps it should be revived as a broadly effective bactericide that can be used as a general sanitizer.

In a press release related to the study issued by the American Society for Microbiology on EurekAlert!, Mr. Takiff concluded the following:  “ 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.”

A copy of the study can also be accessed via this link. A copy of the press release on EurekAlert! can be accessed here.