Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Medical | By

Study shows bacteria have learnt to resist alcohol-based hand sanitisers

Study shows bacteria have learnt to resist alcohol-based hand sanitisers

And it can survive against hand sanitisers.

Researchers say that a superbug, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, or VRE, is becoming more resistant to alcohol.

"The problem with VRE is that it can colonise the gut and then go into patients" bloodstream and cause sepsis, bloodstream infection, and it is very hard to get rid of because it is resistant to nearly all antibiotics'.

While the research noted the increasing resistance to alcohol-based disinfectants, it encouraged hospital workers to continue to use the sanitizers to control the spread of harmful bacteria to patients or coworkers.

Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team said efforts to combat superbugs should focus on how bacteria become resistant to disinfectants as well as antibiotics.

Dispensers have been widely used in hospitals since the mid 2000-ies, as it has been shown that disinfection of the hands helps reduce the spread of methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).


Despite the findings, scientists say this shouldn't prompt hospitals to stop using the products altogether.

"Alcohol-based hand sanitizing wipes are global pillars of hospital infection control and remain very effective in reducing the transmission of other hospital superbugs, particularly MRSA", said Paul Johnson.

The researchers tested alcohol tolerance of 139 hospital isolates of Enterococcus faecium obtained between 1997 and 2015.

They found that samples collected after 2009 were on average more resistant to the alcohol compared with bacteria taken from before 2004.

The researchers then used a mouse infection model to assess the clinical relevance of this increased alcohol tolerance, coating the floors of mice cages with the E faecium isolates and then wiping them down with a solution containing 70% isopropyl alcohol-the amount contained in alcohol-based hand rubs.

This prompted Tim Stinear, a microbiologist at the Doherty Institute in Australia to investigate the VRE bug for potential resistance to disinfectant alcohols.

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