The antibacterial activity of acetic acid against biofilm-producing pathogens of relevance to burns patients

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Fenella D. Halstead
  • Maryam Rauf
  • Naiem S. Moiemen
  • Amy Bamford
  • Christopher M. Wearn
  • Adam P. Fraise
  • Beryl A. Oppenheim

External organisations

  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust


Localised infections, and burn wound sepsis are key concerns in the treatment of burns patients, and prevention of colonisation largely relies on biocides. Acetic acid has been shown to have good antibacterial activity against various planktonic organisms, however data is limited on efficacy, and few studies have been performed on biofilms.
We sought to investigate the antibacterial activity of acetic acid against important burn wound colonising organisms growing planktonically and as biofilms.
Laboratory experiments were performed to test the ability of acetic acid to inhibit growth of pathogens, inhibit the formation of biofilms, and eradicate pre-formed biofilms.
Twenty-nine isolates of common wound-infecting pathogens were tested. Acetic acid was antibacterial against planktonic growth, with an minimum inhibitory concentration of 0.16-0.31% for all isolates, and was also able to prevent formation of biofilms (at 0.31%). Eradication of mature biofilms was observed for all isolates after three hours of exposure.
This study provides evidence that acetic acid can inhibit growth of key burn wound pathogens when used at very dilute concentrations. Owing to current concerns of the reducing efficacy of systemic antibiotics, this novel biocide application offers great promise as a cheap and effective measure to treat infections in burns patients.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0136190
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2015


  • Biofilms, Acetic acid, Acinetobacter baumannii, Bacterial biofilms, Bacterial broth dilution, Burn management, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus