Can tea tree oil prevent the development of antibiotic resistance?


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 (subinhibitory) 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 terpinen4ol 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 terpinen4ol alter the frequency of singlestep antibioticresistant bacteria. 2) Determine whether tea tree oil or terpinen4ol prevent or slow the development of resistance using a serialsubculture assay conducted over several days. 3) If appropriate, characterise any antibiotic tolerant or resistant organisms that may arise.

Project Code


Project Stage


Project Start Date

Friday, October 30, 2009

Project Completion Date

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Journal Articles From Project

Not Available

National Priority

Promoting and maintaining good health

National Priority

Adoption of R&D

National Priority

TTO-Increasing demand