As if the reports widely circulated around the globe about the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the threat posed by these adapted germs were not bad enough, now, there is a new group of bacteria that should concern the general public. If you thought that hand sanitizers were going to protect you from diseases, think again: bacteria resistant to the cleansing effects of hand sanitizers have now been discovered.
In a recently published study on this phenomenon, the researchers stress that the bacteria have not become truly “resistant” but rather “tolerant” to certain levels of the alcohol-based solutions, though true resistance could be on the horizon. These bacteria can tolerate exposure to the sanitizers for longer periods of time. This is of particular concern given that Enterococci globally are
The authors of the above-mentioned research report investigated several samples of E. faecium that were collected from patients at two different Australian hospitals over the course of 19 years from 1997 to 2015. Importantly, these bacterial isolates were resistant to the antibiotic
vancomycin, which is often considered the last line of defense in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The bacteria were examined for tolerance to solutions of alcohol disinfectant, which revealed approximately 10 times greater incidence of alcohol tolerance in the samples obtained after 2010. Samples collected pre-2004 were considerably more susceptible to the effects of these sanitizing solutions.
Hand sanitizers are typically composed of one of two types of alcohol (either isopropanol or ethanol) diluted to approximately 60-70% in water. There was significant effort levied in the early 2000s to equip hospitals with hand sanitizer dispensers for use by patients and medical
The Australian research team examined the sensitivity of 139 E. faecium isolates to varying dilutions of isopropanol-based sanitizers. The concentrations used in the study ranged from 23% to 70%. Since the researchers could not test antibiotic-resistant and alcohol-tolerant bacteria on people, they tested these bacteria on mice.
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