There are times that hand sanitizer is worth its weight in gold, like in a crowded airport during cold and flu season or after any Porta-potty visit. But as handy as our trusty hand sanitizer is, it might not be disinfecting as well as we think. According to a new study, one type of bacteria seems to be adapting to alcohol-based hand cleaners.
With hand sanitizers at every turn in hospitals, researchers wanted to know if alcohol is effective at killing E. faecium, a kind of bacteria that’s multidrug-resistant. This stuff naturally occurs in the GI tract, but can cause infections when it spreads to other body parts and in recent years, infections from it have been on the rise.
When they added alcohol solutions to samples of this bacteria from hospitals from between 1997 and 2015, they found the samples from 2010 and after were 10-times more tolerant of alcohol. This means E. faecium is getting more tolerant of alcohol over time. But before you ditch your hand sani altogether, remember this study was only on one specific kind of bacteria.
And don’t forget the power of washing your hands with good old soap and water. The CDC says it’s the best way to clean your hands and they only advise using hand sanitizer when necessary, like when you have no choice and are forced to use a Porta-potty.