Superbugs are becoming resistant to alcohol disinfectants, study says

Brazzaville Hospital

Professor Paul Johnson, a member of the team from Australian health service provider Austin Health, said: "Alcohol-based hand rubs are global pillars of hospital infection control and remain highly effective in reducing transmission of other hospital superbugs, particularly methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)".

"Whatever the drivers, the development of alcohol-tolerant strains of E. faecium has the potential to undermine the effectiveness of alcohol-based disinfectant standard precautions and may, in part, explain the increase in VRE infection that is now widely reported in hospitals in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Australia", the authors of the study write.

"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'.

'It only impacts the most susceptible people - so healthy people do not get VRE infections'.

Yet while rates of MRSA and other infections have stabilised due to heightened hygiene, Stinear said, VRE infection rates have not.

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

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

The researchers traced the increased resistance to alcohol-based disinfectants to several Enterococcus mutations in genes that play a role in metabolism.

Alcohol-tolerant microbes were better able to colonise the guts of mice after the cages were cleaned with disinfectant wipes.

Paul Johnson, a professor of infectious diseases at Austin Health in Australia who also co-led the study, said the findings should not prompt any dramatic change in the use of alcohol-based disinfectants.

Instead they suggested trying higher-alcohol concentrate products and renewed efforts to deep clean hospitals while isolating patients found to carry VRE.

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