With the start of school most of us are preprogrammed to believe that summer is over. Summer is a time of indulgence, a time to let your hair down and enjoy. Unfortunately for some of us that means come fall our clothes may fit a bit differently than the last time we wore them! We’ve lost the battle to the bulge.
What other battles are we loosing as we go about our daily routines? I think we can all agree that hand sanitizers have become a staple in our lives. They’re in our children’s lunch bags, in our purses, attached to our briefcases and probably stashed in places we’ve forgotten about. It’s because of this rampant use of hand sanitizers that a recently published study I came across is so interesting. Conducted by a group of researchers in Australia, is something you may want to read.
Antibiotic resistance is a well-known phenomenon. It occurred as a result of widespread and overuse of antibiotics prescribed to patients. With hand sanitizers moving to mainstream use within the community and not just in healthcare facilities have we potentially repeated history and will start to see resistance of pathogens of concern to hand sanitizers? According to this study that very well may be the case. The study investigated 139 samples of Enterococcus faecium. The samples were subjected to different strengths of alcohol ranging from 23% to 70%. The samples had been taken over a 19 year period (1997 – 2015) and they found that samples from 2010 on were 10 times more resistant to alcohol. Could this be in part an explanation to the increased numbers of HAIs associated with Enterococci? The development of resistance to hand sanitizers would certainly complicate our infection control practices. Additional measures or procedures would need to be put into place to reduce the risk of further resistance development.
Before we cry wolf, this is the first study to show such an occurrence. While both interesting and concerning we can’t jump to conclusions. That said, I hope that we have learned from our past mistakes and take a more serious look to determine if this truly is happening and if it’s happening on a global basis we seriously contemplate what we need to do to slow the resistant development down. Enterococci are as we know widely resistant to multiple antibiotics. Hand hygiene and surface disinfection is our first line of defense when it comes to infection prevention. Alcohol is used in lower concentrations in many of the surface disinfectants we use. We cannot afford to have our hand hygiene or surface disinfection products develop resistance or we’ll really be up the creek without a paddle!