Now, bacterial resistance to hand-rubs

Superbugs becoming resistant to alcohol disinfectants

VRE bugs, which can cause urinary tract, wound and bloodstream infections, can be hard to treat, mainly because they are resistant to several classes of antibiotics. VRE bugs are hard to treat because they are resistant to several types of antibiotics.

They screened 139 isolated bacterial samples collected between 1997 and 2015 from two hospitals in Melbourne and studied how well each one survived when exposed to diluted isopropyl alcohol.

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.

"Alcohol-based hand rubs are worldwide pillars of hospital infection control and remain highly effective in reducing transmission of other hospital superbugs, particularly MRSA", he said.

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Healthcare entities, including nursing homes, often use hand rubs and washes that contain alcohol in efforts to defeat superbugs such as VRE and MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

During the study time period, strains of E. faecium developed an improved ability to withstand alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The isolates gathered after 2009 were on average more tolerant to the alcohol compared to bacteria taken from before 2004. Amongst them, especially Enterococcus faecium shows signs of drug resistance, which made this species a flawless subject of study for the scientists. Once the cages were cleaned, the mice were placed in them for one hour. But as Stinear notes in a video posted by the Doherty Institute, scientists do not fully understand how and why Enterococcus faecium has evolved this adaptation. In the result, it was found that more "young" strains of bacteria 70% more resistant to disinfectants alcohol-based. "That extra advantage that it has, by being able to grow in our gut, means that it's actually harder to kill when it gets on our hands". 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.

The researchers - led by infectious disease expert Paul Johnson and microbiologist Timothy Stinear of the University of Melbourne - said hospitals shouldn't stop using hand sanitizer based on these findings.

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