70% Alcohol Battles Against Super Bacteria?

70% Alcohol Battles Against Super Bacteria?

New reports indicate that alcohol hand washes and sanitizers are losing the battle against super strains of Enterococcal bacteria.

Educating practitioners and patients on the when, where, and why of hand sanitization within healthcare facilities has led to a pronounced decline in MRSA and HAIs for the greater part of the last 20 years. Meanwhile, “what” we wash our hands with may require new solutions.

Studies Show Super-Bacteria with 10x Resistance to Alcohol Disinfection (IPA) than In Previous Decades

A new study published in August 2018 from Science Transition Medicine, shows a pronounced growth in bacterial resistant to alcohol-based disinfectants. 70% alcohol-based scrubs are a cornerstone of disinfection for hand washing, but also as a surface treatment for both general and critical spaces. When compared with data collected on E. faecium isolates between 1997 and 2015, newer isolates showed 10x more tolerance to alcohol than those previous to 2010.

Genetic Mutations in E. Faecium

Bacterial genomic signatures showed a mutation in genes with altered carbohydrate uptake and metabolism function. 70% alcohol destabilizes a unicellular organisms membrane, therefore rendering bacteria inert. If bacteria were to mutate in a way that its lipid or protein composition would change, alcohol would lose efficacy. If genetic selection increases membrane resistance without hindering primary cell functions, super-resistance is likely. Consequently, the standard contact times associated with disinfection may increase, thus hindering the fast acting advantages of isopropyl alcohol solutions.

NASA Confirms Alcohol Resistance Bacteria Strains

NASA cleanrooms for space technology require stringent cleanliness. Mitigating microbes prevents the possibility that a spacecraft becomes a vector of disease for extra-terrestrial life. NASA has reported strains of Acinetobacter that can break down isopropyl alcohol, while also withstanding treatment with hydrogen peroxide, bleaches, detergents, and other disinfectants. Evaluating the impact of hand washing on healthcare is not without controversy, as randomized and controlled trials are difficult to repeat. For the time being, it is within good evidence that alcohol-based disinfectants will remain as a preventative measure against pathogens and viruses.

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