Study warns of disinfectant use in hospitals

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The use of disinfectants to clean and control infections in hospitals should be regulated in the same way that prescribing antibiotics is, according to researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

In a study published in Nature Microbiology, Dr. Karolin Hijazi, Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen Institute of Dentistry, in collaboration with Professor Ian Gould, Consultant Microbiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and colleagues at the University of Leicester analysed resistance to disinfectants in a specific type of bacteria.

The team looked at Staphylococcus epidermidis, a type of bacteria found on the skin of healthy people and is traditionally considered harmless. They previously found that in environments with a high concentration of disinfectant, such as intensive care units, this otherwise benign bacteria can become pathogenic and multidrug resistant.

When this happens, the drug resistant strain can potentially transfer 'resistance' genes to Staphylococcus aureus, which then transforms into 'superbug' MRSA.

Up until now, previous research has focussed largely on MRSA, with little attention paid to Staphylococcus epidermidis in this context. According to Dr. Hijazi, however, these results indicate that Staphylococcus epidermidis may also pose a potentially a significant risk to public health.

Professor Gould explains: "Our research shows that in environments with a high concentration of disinfectant, this previously harmless bacteria can develop resistance to treatments commonly used to treat infection. This is potentially a very significant issue and highlights the importance of investigating how these bugs can become resistant to disinfectants.'

Dr. Hijazi added: "Basically, we are saying that intensive use of the particular disinfectants used in hospitals can contribute to the prevalence of bugs that are resistant to most antibiotics commonly used to treat infections.

"Our results suggest that we need to change the way we think about using disinfectants, particularly in the hospital setting.

"We are all aware of the problems associated with the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and similarly, there is evidence that the use of in hospitals should be regulated more strictly."

Explore further

Drug-resistant superbug spreading in hospitals: study

More information: Roxana Zamudio et al. Time for biocide stewardship?, Nature Microbiology (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41564-019-0360-6
Journal information: Nature Microbiology

Citation: Study warns of disinfectant use in hospitals (2019, March 11) retrieved 16 October 2019 from
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User comments

Mar 12, 2019
This is a highly misleading and dangerous report.

From everything I know as a scientist, disinfectants are the first line of defence against bacteria in infection control and for any scientist to suggest otherwise smacks of dangerous quackery.

Neither MRSA bacteria nor any other type of bacteria can withstand a strong disinfectant like bleach, to the best of my knowledge.

"Keep cleaning the hospitals with disinfectant and ignore this report" would be my advice.

I would trust that long established experts like Hugh Pennington would be as horrified as myself to read this report but he can speak for himself.

Peter Dow
Science and Politics

Mar 12, 2019
Maybe if you read the paper and could present some sort of actual criticism of it instead of making arguments against the press release written by a first-year journalism student you might gain some credibility.

For example, what exact microbiocides were studied here?

What application methods were used?

Just to name a couple obvious questions.

Mar 12, 2019
A "press release written by a first-year journalism student" can kill many people if hospital managers decide to employ less cleaners or less disinfectant.

It is needs to be spelled out equally simply that "if you Mr Manager heed this quackery you will be killing patients".

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