Cold War Antiseptic May Be Valuable Germ Fighter

FRIDAY, July 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A nontoxic antiseptic developed in the former Soviet Union may be a valuable weapon for fighting common infections, British researchers say.

The drug, miramistin, was developed for the Soviet Space Program. While little known in the West, it blocks or kills flu, human papillomaviruses (HPV), coronaviruses, adenoviruses and HIV, according to University of Manchester scientists.

Miramistin is less toxic to human cells than the usual antiseptics, such as cetylpyridinium chloride. It's also 88% to 93% biodegradable, they noted.

"Conventional antiseptics contaminate the environment because they are toxic to microbiota, fish, algae and plants," said researcher David Denning, a professor at the university.

"These are widely available but problematic whereas miramistin has no genotoxic effects after it has been broken down," he said in a university news release.

Miramistin is used against Candida and Aspergillus species and bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Proteus, Klebsiella, and the germs that cause venereal diseases, the researchers noted.

And miramistin is still used by doctors in some of the former Soviet Bloc countries to treat wounds and ulcers.

"Miramistin has been overlooked in the West and may have practical and environmental advantages," said researcher Ali Osmanov, who is studying fungal disease at Manchester.

"Today, antiseptics act as a 'last frontier' against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses, and also have an important role in infection control. Unfortunately, currently used antiseptics have some flaws," Osmanov noted in the release.

"For example, bleach can exacerbate asthma, and many of the older antiseptics are not active against coronaviruses. We hope our paper will stimulate modern studies to evaluate miramistin's potential," Osmanov said.

In this age of emerging antimicrobial resistance, miramistin's potential justifies its re-evaluation for use in other geographical areas and conditions, the researchers added.

The report was published July 3 in the journal FEMS Microbiology Reviews.

More information

For more on antiseptics, check out DermNet NZ.

SOURCE: University of Manchester, news release, July 3, 2020

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