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Bacteria learn to resist alcohol-based hand sanitisers

Australian researchers discover infections in hospitals increase after the introduction of sanitiser.

Brazzaville Hospital
A hand sanitiser used in hospitals.
Godong/Getty Images

The all-resistant super bug could soon be here, and it's going to take more than antibiotics and alcohol to stop it.

Researchers in Australia have discovered that alcohol-based hand sanitisers used in hospitals by doctors are no longer as effective as they used to be against certain types of bacteria -- and that it's because some strains of the Enterococcus faecium have figured out how to survive an alcohol bath, and they're growing up to ten times more tolerant, reports Gizmodo.

The researchers also tested the strains in mice kept in a cage treated with alcohol antiseptic. They found the alcohol resistant strains in the mice poop and that both antibiotic-resistant and normal strains of the bacteria had the same rate of tolerance, which doesn't bode well for the future.

The E. faecium bug is responsible for about 10 percent of cases of hospital-acquired bacteremia, which is a blood infection that can lead to sepsis, a condition where the body's response to infection causes it to attack tissue and organs and is often fatal. 

That said, the Gizmodo report added that researchers suggest that the bacteria could be surviving because disinfectants were too diluted, or users weren't rubbing their hands long enough. So get to scrubbing your hands thoroughly the next time you're visiting a hospital.