According to a study published in Science Translational Medicine, multidrug-resistant Enterococcus faecium pathogen continues to cause infections despite the application of hand sanitizers.
University of Melbourne researchers have tested alcohol tolerance of 139 hospital isolates of E. faecium obtained between 1997 and 2015 and found that E. faecium isolates after 2010 were 10-fold more tolerant to killing by alcohol than were older isolates.
In other words, E. faecium managed to resist the 70-percent alcohol sanitizers.
"These findings suggest that bacterial adaptation is complicating infection control recommendations, necessitating additional procedures to prevent E. faecium from spreading in hospital settings," the researchers argued.
Just like drugs can develop resistance to antibiotic treatments, E. faecium — which causes diseases such as neonatal meningitis or endocarditis — seems to display the same ability with hand sanitizers.
"The development of alcohol-tolerant strains of E. faecium has the potential to undermine the effectiveness of alcohol-based disinfectant standard precautions and may, in part, explain the increase in [vancomycin-resistant Enterococci] infection that is now widely reported in hospitals in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Australia," the researchers of the University of Melbourne argued.
According to a 2014 report commissioned by the United Kingdom government, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050, unless a global response to the problem of AMR is mounted.