Can tea tree oil prevent the development of antibiotic resistance?

University of Western Australia

  • Project code: PRJ-003529

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Friday, October 30, 2009

  • Project completion date: Tuesday, August 30, 2011

  • National Priority: TTO-Increasing demand


This study proposes to investigate a novel mechanistic angle that may increase the acceptability of tea tree oil, namely antibiotic resistance prevention. This study will test the hypothesis that low (sub-inhibitory) levels of tea tree oil can slow the rate at which microorganisms become resistant to antibiotics. If this is shown, it would have enormous benefits in terms of both extending the life of many antimicrobial agents and providing a unique mechanistic action for tea tree oil.


Tea Tree Oil

Research Organisation

University of Western Australia

Objective Summary

The major objective of this research project is to investigate the effects of low levels of tea tree oil and terpinen-4-ol on the rate at which resistance to antibiotics develops in vitro using the test organisms Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

The specific objectives are to:
1) Determine whether tea tree oil or terpinen-4-ol alter the frequency of single-step antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

2) Determine whether tea tree oil or terpinen-4-ol prevent or slow the development of resistance using a serial-subculture assay conducted over several days.

3) If appropriate, characterise any antibiotic tolerant or resistant organisms that may arise.