Hospital superbugs are becoming resistant to alcohol - which is used in handwashes as a means to control their spread.
VRE is unsafe as it can cause urinary tract, wound and bloodstream infections that are notoriously hard to treat, mainly because they are resistant to several classes of antibiotics.
'It only impacts the most susceptible people - so healthy people do not get VRE infections'.
In their struggle to tackle the rise in superbugs, such as VRE or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), institutions all over the world have introduced stringent sanitation standards, frequently involving hand rubs and the use of alcohol disinfectants.
Yet while rates of MRSA and other infections have stabilised due to heightened hygiene, Stinear said, VRE infection rates have not. They found E. faecium isolates after 2010 were 10 times more tolerant to killing by alcohol than the older isolates they tested.
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They screened 139 isolated bacterial samples collected between 1997 and 2015 from two hospitals in Melbourne and studied how well each one survived when exposed to diluted isopropyl alcohol.
He added: "Alcohol-based hand hygiene use has increased tenfold over the past 20 years in Australian hospitals, so we are using a lot and the environment is changing".
Afterward, scientists scattered the bacteria over the floors of mice' cages and determined that alcohol-resistant specimens were more prone to penetrating and proliferating into the mice's viscera even after the researchers cleaned the cages' floors with a substance based on the isopropyl alcohol. "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".
Instead they suggested trying higher-alcohol concentrate products and renewed efforts to deep clean hospitals while isolating patients found to carry VRE.