Some Bacteria Now More Tolerant of Alcohol-Based Sanitizers

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Enterococci bacteria surviving exposure for longer periods of time.
Enterococci bacteria surviving exposure for longer periods of time.

HealthDay News — Some types of bacteria are developing tolerance of alcohol-based hand sanitizers used in hospitals, according to a study published in the Aug. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The introduction of these sanitizers into hospitals led to reductions in staph infections in patients and certain kinds of drug-resistant bacteria, but there was a rise in enterococcal infections, NPR reported. Worldwide, enterococci account for 10% of bacterial infections acquired in the hospital. In North America and Europe, they are a leading cause of sepsis.

This study found that several strains of enterococci bacteria are becoming more tolerant of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. That doesn't mean they're resistant to the alcohol, but can survive exposure to it for longer periods of time, NPR reported.

Most hand sanitizers are 60% alcohol. The researchers found that a 70% alcohol mixture was needed to eliminate the alcohol-tolerant strains of enterococci bacteria. They also found that many of the strains are resistant to a number of drugs. For example, half of the strains were resistant to vancomycin, a last-line antibiotic, NPR reported.

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