Hand Sanitizers are Becoming Less Effective Against Germs in Hospitals, Study Finds

07 Août, 2018, 17:44 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Alcohol-Resistant Bacteria

The team found that the strain has the potential to evade the effectiveness of alcohol-based disinfectant standard precautions and could be the cause of an increase in VRE infection common in hospitals across Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia. It has to be noted that the usage of hand sanitizer in hospitals began to significantly increase in 2002.

To better understand the reasons for this bacteria's spread, researchers analysed bacterial samples taken from two hospitals in Melbourne, Australia, from 1997 to 2015. Results were published last week in Science Translational Medicine.

It appears that the bacterium is developing resistance to alcohol-based sanitizers, possibly due to their growing use in hospitals.

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In efforts to tackle the rise of hospital superbugs such as VRE and MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, institutions worldwide have adopted stringent hygiene steps - often involving hand rubs and washes that contain alcohol. Such measures should curb the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as Enterococcus faecium. In fact, it took a 70-percent alcohol mixture to kill the bacteria completely, which is somewhat disconcerting, since hand sanitizers typically boast 60 percent alcohol concentrations. Once the cages were cleaned, the mice were placed in them for one hour.

However, drug-resistant E. faecium infections have increased despite the use of alcohol disinfectants, and now represent a leading cause of infections acquired in hospitals. It is possible that the bacteria are simply becoming resistant to hand sanitizers, but something more complex could be at work. The acquisition by bacteria of resistance to alcohol suggests that in order to insure sterility, it is necessary to use combined detergents that kill bacteria not only through the content of alcohols. In the meantime, the researchers say, hospitals might want to consider using disinfectants with both alcohol and chlorhexidine, another bacteria-killing compound, to try and cut down on the spread of alcohol-tolerant bugs.

While worth further study, the findings should not prompt dramatic changes in the use of alcohol-based disinfectants, said Paul Johnson, Ph.D., FRACP, a professor of infectious diseases at Austin Health in Australia who co-led the study.

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