Germs are gaining resistance to hospital hand gels, study says

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 1 year ago

A new study suggests that Enterococcus faecium, the leading cause of infections traced back to hospitals, is quickly gaining resistance to antibiotics.

“It’s a WHO [World Health Organization] and CDC-recognized superbug,” said Timothy Stinear, senior author of the study. “In the hospital it is already resistant to nearly all classes of antibiotics.”

E. faecium seems to be gaining resistance to alcohol-based sanitizers, which could be due to the increase in the use of antimicrobial gels in hospitals.

“E. faecium has adapted to the health-care environment,” Stinear said.

E. faecium, as well as other enterococci, are bacteria that are typically found in the gut and not typically harmful or hostile. However, they have recently become one of the main causes of hospital-associated bacterial infections.

“E. faecium is a highly prevalent bacterial species that is a very common cause of infections that range from bloodstream infections to urinary tract infections,” said Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who was not involved in the study.

“The vancomycin [antibiotic]-resistant form of this bacteria, which the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] estimates kills more than 1,000 people a year in the U.S., is a priority pathogen that is involved in many hospital-acquired infections,” he added.

Now, it appears that hospitals might have to begin searching for alternative antimicrobial agents to replace alcohol rubs.

“As hand hygiene with alcohol-based sanitizers is a key prevention tool in hospitals, tolerance to alcohol rubs will be very problematic and may necessitate the use of alternative methods to optimally prevent its spread,” Adalja said.

The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.