Bacteria growing more resistant to hospital disinfectants, study finds

Although alcohol-based disinfectants are a critical component of hospital infection control, a multidrug-resistant bacterium is becoming more tolerant to alcohols in hospital disinfectants, a study published in Science Translational Medicine found.

The researchers tested alcohol tolerance of 139 hospital isolates of Enterococcus faecium obtained between 1997 and 2015. They found E. faecium isolates after 2010 were 10 times more tolerant to killing by alcohol than the older isolates they tested.

E. faecium that developed resistance to alcohol sanitizers were better able to resist isopropanol surface disinfection and colonize the guts of mice researchers used in the study, the study found.

"These findings may help explain the recent increase in this pathogen in hospital settings," the researchers write. "A global response to E. faecium will need to include consideration of its adaptive responses not only to antibiotics but also to alcohols and the other active agents in disinfectant solutions that have become so critical for effective infection control." 

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