Carbon dioxide is antibacterial

Anders Olsson Blogposts

Astudy at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden showed that the growth of staphylococci was 1,000 times higher when the bacteria were exposed to normal air for 24 hours, compared with exposure to air saturated with 100 percent CO2.

CO2 has been used in food packaging since the 1930’s, because of its antibacterial effect, which prevents disease-causing bacteria from growing. Bread, cheese, chicken, and coffee, are some of the products that have 100 percent carbon dioxide added inside the packaging.

Low levels of CO2 increases risk of infection

When our breathing is impaired the CO2-levels in our body drop, which creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth and higher risk of infection.

Study carbon dioxide and bacterial growth
Title Carbon dioxide inhibits the growth rate of Staphylococcus aureus at body temperature”
Journal Surg Endosc. 2005 Jan;19(1):91-4. Epub 2004 Nov 11.
Authors Olsen KD, Kern EB, Westbrook PR.
Since the 1930s, carbon dioxide (CO(2)) has been combined with cold storage for the preservation of food. However, its use for the prevention of surgical wound infection was long considered to be impractical. Now CO(2) is widely used during laparoscopic procedures, and a method has been developed to create a CO(2) atmosphere in an open wound. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of CO(2) on the growth of Staphylococcus aureus at body temperature.

First, S. aureus inoculated on blood agar were exposed to pure CO(2) (100%), standard anaerobic gas (5% CO(2), 10% hydrogen, 85% nitrogen), or air at 37 degrees C for a period of 24 h; then a viable count of the bacteria was made. Second, S. aureus inoculated in brain-heart infusion broth and kept at 37 degrees C were exposed to CO(2) or air for 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 h; then the optical density of the bacteria was measured.

After 24 h, the number of S. aureus on blood agar was about 100 times lower in CO(2) than in anaerobic gas (p = 0.001) and about 1,000 times lower than in air (p = 0.001). Also, in broth, there were fewer bacteria with CO(2) than with air (p < 0.01). After 2 h, the number of bacteria was increased with air (p < 0.001) but not with CO(2) (p = 0.13). After 8 h, the optical density had increased from zero to 1.2 with air but it had increased only to 0.01 with CO(2) (p = 0.001).

Pure CO(2) significantly decreased the growth rate of S. aureus at body temperature. The inhibitory effect of CO(2) increased exponentially with time. Its bacteriostatic effect may help to explain the low infection rates in patients who undergo laparoscopic procedures.

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