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Drug-Resistant Superbugs May Have Just Learned a New Trick

Alcohol-resistant bacteria would undermine the effectiveness of hand sanitizers, researchers say.

Drug-resistant superbugs, already a big problem in hospitals, may have learned a new trick, researchers reported Wednesday.

They may have evolved resistance to alcohol — the ingredient in hand sanitizers and disinfectants that are one mainstay of hospital infection control, Australian researchers said.

If true, it could be even harder than it already is to control the spread of infection in hospitals, the researchers wrote in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

If bacteria can evade the effects of alcohol, it will come as a surprise to many microbiologists, who have assumed that it could not happen. While bacteria can evolve the ability to resist antibiotics, for instance by pumping them out, alcohol kills more efficiently.

The team at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne identified and studied a strain of vancomycin-resistant enterococci called Enterococcus faecium.

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