Researchers in Australia have discovered that alcohol-based hand sanitisers used in hospitals by doctors are no longer as effective as they used to be against certain types of bacteria - and that it's because some strains of the Enterococcus faecium have figured out how to survive an alcohol bath, and they're growing up to ten times more tolerant, reports Gizmodo.
These generally involve hand rubs or washes containing ethyl or isopropyl alcohol disinfectants.
"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'. Though it's a preliminary step, it's being hailed as a small victory in the global war against superbugs.
Despite the findings, scientists say this shouldn't prompt hospitals to stop using the products altogether.
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Those obtained after 2009 were found to be more tolerant to the disinfectant than those sampled before 2004.
While this approach has been affective in stabilising the levels of MRSA, VRE infection rates have not been affected in the same way.
He added: "Alcohol-based hand hygiene use has increased tenfold over the past 20 years in Australian hospitals, so we are using a lot and the environment is changing".
The researchers traced the increased resistance to alcohol-based disinfectants to several Enterococcus mutations in genes that play a role in metabolism.
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The findings suggest that E faecium could be adapting to alcohol-based hand rubs, which have become an integral part of standard infection control strategies in hospitals.
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.
Alcohol-tolerant microbes were better able to colonise the guts of mice after the cages were cleaned with disinfectant wipes.
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