A new study has warned that the use of disinfectants to clean and control infections in hospitals should be regulated in the same way that prescribing antibiotics is.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen conducted a study in collaboration with Professor Ian Gould, consultant microbiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, and colleagues at the University of Leicester analysed resistance to disinfectants in a specific type of bacteria.

The research team evaluated patients with Staphylococcus epidermidis, a type of bacteria found on the skin of healthy people and is traditionally considered harmless.

They previously found that in environments with a high concentration of disinfectant, such as intensive care units, this otherwise benign bacteria can become pathogenic and multidrug resistant.

When this happens, the drug resistant strain can potentially transfer ‘resistance’ genes to Staphylococcus aureus, which then transforms into ‘superbug’ MRSA.

Previous research has focussed largely on MRSA, with little attention paid to Staphylococcus epidermidis in this context.

Professor Gould explained: “Our research shows that in environments with a high concentration of disinfectant, this previously harmless bacteria can develop resistance to treatments commonly used to treat infection.

"This is potentially a very significant public health issue and highlights the importance of investigating how these bugs can become resistant to disinfectants."