Infection Control FAQ & Darwinism

So in my inbox today was an email with a link here, a link to an infection control FAQ. I’m all for hand sanitizing, and stations everywhere, but here’s an interesting quote from the FAQ:

Can alcohol-based products lead to antimicrobial resistance?

Resistance occurs when certain types of products are used excessively, and is more commonly associated with the over-prescription of antibiotics than hand cleaning. Ethanol, the active ingredient in Purell®, kills cells quickly and then evaporates. Since bacteria generally require prolonged exposure to an agent in order adapt and become resistant, the rapid killing effect and evaporation of ethanol means there is less chance for resistance to occur. Furthermore, even if microorganisms could become more tolerant of alcohols, this would not affect their susceptibility to antibiotics like penicillin.

Although Bacteria can adapt in their lifespans (like turning on a ?-Galactosidase gene for making a lactose enzyme), I highly doubt they could adapt to varying concentrations of ethanol. Bacteria develop resistance through genetic change, aka natural selection. It doesn’t matter how quickly the bacteria are exposed to ethanol. It just matters that the strong survive and reproduce.

Also from the FAQ (this is a serious topic, but ridiculous video)


32 thoughts on “Infection Control FAQ & Darwinism

  1. Anonymous

    4:19, vaccinate your kids. Now. You may not worry about chicken pox, but you should worry about hepatitis, among other things. The link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders is on shaky ground at best. There have been 1500 cases where the government settled with a claimant damaged by a vaccination in the past 19 years. The incidence of adverse health risks is absurdly small, and the positive benefits are huge.Objecting because you suspect health risks is stupid. Seriously, the science is in on vaccinations. The benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the risks. Immunity to disease is not something most people would pass up. Remember the horrors of smallpox? Polio? I don’t.Nowadays, the only reason even remotely valid for not vaccinating is an argument for personal freedom, but it’s still moronic. Maybe you feel like the government shouldn’t be able to force any particular kind of medicine on you or your kids, so you deny vaccinations on principle, regardless of the health benefits. But that’s absurdly selfish and stupid, because not only are you endangering your kids, but also other people, even those who are vaccinated. It’s like saying drunk driving is a personal liberty. “My car, my body, my alcohol. I should have the right to choose whether I drive drunk.”And if your objection to vaccination is religious, it’s really not even worth anyone’s time to try to change your mind, seeing as you’re already divorced from reality.

  2. Anonymous

    4:19, vaccinate your kids. Now. You may not worry about chicken pox, but you should worry about hepatitis, among other things. The link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders is on shaky ground at best. There have been 1500 cases where the government settled with a claimant damaged by a vaccination in the past 19 years. The incidence of adverse health risks is absurdly small, and the positive benefits are huge.

    Objecting because you suspect health risks is stupid. Seriously, the science is in on vaccinations. The benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the risks. Immunity to disease is not something most people would pass up. Remember the horrors of smallpox? Polio? I don’t.

    Nowadays, the only reason even remotely valid for not vaccinating is an argument for personal freedom, but it’s still moronic. Maybe you feel like the government shouldn’t be able to force any particular kind of medicine on you or your kids, so you deny vaccinations on principle, regardless of the health benefits. But that’s absurdly selfish and stupid, because not only are you endangering your kids, but also other people, even those who are vaccinated. It’s like saying drunk driving is a personal liberty. “My car, my body, my alcohol. I should have the right to choose whether I drive drunk.”

    And if your objection to vaccination is religious, it’s really not even worth anyone’s time to try to change your mind, seeing as you’re already divorced from reality.

  3. Anonymous

    dear whomever you are above,Thanks for that explanation. It makes a lot of sense, and makes me want to do more reading.-esb

  4. Anonymous

    dear whomever you are above,

    Thanks for that explanation. It makes a lot of sense, and makes me want to do more reading.

    -esb

  5. Anonymous

    hey esb,an association between hand sanitizers and immune “atrophy” hasn’t been established in the literature, at least so far as I can tell. the association certainly could exist, but given the complexity of our immune system it’s unreasonable to suggest its existence via inference alone. an empirical account, despite its obvious flaws, would be the least defeasible strategy here.there is a speculative explanation for why the association hasn’t been found, however. our bodies are constantly interacting with environmental microbes, and yes, to some extent, this background exposure is required for a healthy immune response. yet ethanol hand sanitizer does little to alter this exposure; it “resets” the hand flora following contact with surfaces likely to contain pathogens, or before activities likely to introduce pathogens into the body, but after the product evaporates the hands are recolonized rapidly. your immune system will still encounter the microbial load necessary for being healthy. college students live in very close proximity to each other, and in this environment we know infections can spread quite rapidly. the hand sanitizer dispensers are meant to counteract the increased microbial exposure inherent to a college campus, as a means to prevent mini-outbreaks (e.g., the gastro, caused by an ethanol-susceptible adenovirus) and allow students to avoid illness, say, during the stress of finals. consider the infection control campaign an attempt to restore balance rather than engineer an imaginary aseptic university.

  6. Anonymous

    hey esb,

    an association between hand sanitizers and immune “atrophy” hasn’t been established in the literature, at least so far as I can tell. the association certainly could exist, but given the complexity of our immune system it’s unreasonable to suggest its existence via inference alone. an empirical account, despite its obvious flaws, would be the least defeasible strategy here.

    there is a speculative explanation for why the association hasn’t been found, however. our bodies are constantly interacting with environmental microbes, and yes, to some extent, this background exposure is required for a healthy immune response. yet ethanol hand sanitizer does little to alter this exposure; it “resets” the hand flora following contact with surfaces likely to contain pathogens, or before activities likely to introduce pathogens into the body, but after the product evaporates the hands are recolonized rapidly. your immune system will still encounter the microbial load necessary for being healthy.

    college students live in very close proximity to each other, and in this environment we know infections can spread quite rapidly. the hand sanitizer dispensers are meant to counteract the increased microbial exposure inherent to a college campus, as a means to prevent mini-outbreaks (e.g., the gastro, caused by an ethanol-susceptible adenovirus) and allow students to avoid illness, say, during the stress of finals. consider the infection control campaign an attempt to restore balance rather than engineer an imaginary aseptic university.

  7. Anonymous

    4:19, I like your style.I think that the issue that deserves more discussion than microbial resistance is the readiness of a human immune system that is kept from interacting with pathogens. Bex, I hear where you’re coming from, but the flu et al will have more of a chance of finding you (and of kicking your ass once it does) the more you (or the hypothetical subject) isolate(s) yourself (herself) from all possible pathogens, great and small.resistant bacteria make for great newsreel hype and all, but I think the real threat from sanitizers and the like is an atrophied immune system…-esb

  8. Anonymous

    4:19, I like your style.
    I think that the issue that deserves more discussion than microbial resistance is the readiness of a human immune system that is kept from interacting with pathogens. Bex, I hear where you’re coming from, but the flu et al will have more of a chance of finding you (and of kicking your ass once it does) the more you (or the hypothetical subject) isolate(s) yourself (herself) from all possible pathogens, great and small.
    resistant bacteria make for great newsreel hype and all, but I think the real threat from sanitizers and the like is an atrophied immune system…

    -esb

  9. Anonymous

    bex…4:19 here – we don’t vax :) . We are way more worried about autism than we are chicken pox!

  10. Anonymous

    bex…

    4:19 here – we don’t vax :) . We are way more worried about autism than we are chicken pox!

  11. Bex

    4:19, i see where you’re coming from, but i think protecting the health of the community is very important, whether it be from a bad cold or deadly drug-resistant staph infection… anyway, how many wes students have healthy diets and relaxed lifestyles?i, for one, try to visit these things very often. i can’t get the flu vaccine due to a severe egg allergy, so i’m gonna keep my hands as clean as possible.

  12. Bex

    4:19, i see where you’re coming from, but i think protecting the health of the community is very important, whether it be from a bad cold or deadly drug-resistant staph infection… anyway, how many wes students have healthy diets and relaxed lifestyles?

    i, for one, try to visit these things very often. i can’t get the flu vaccine due to a severe egg allergy, so i’m gonna keep my hands as clean as possible.

  13. Anonymous

    Sanitizers scare the crap out of me. I’m a mom and a molecular biologist, and I worry more about my kid ingesting chemicals than I do about him getting an infection. He has a healthy diet and a pretty relaxed lifestyle, so (knock wood) he has never needed medical intervention or antibiotics. He eats tomatoes (organic of course) off the vine, apples off the ground, and food off the floor (10 second rule ;) ). We aren’t a fastidious household, but we are healthy and happy.Anyway, I have heard reports of toddlers getting butt drunk on hand sanitizers, which is really dangerous for a little one. Plus, kids/young adults/grownups need to build up immunity. Yes, there are yucky bugs out there, but we are equipped to handle them!

  14. Anonymous

    Sanitizers scare the crap out of me. I’m a mom and a molecular biologist, and I worry more about my kid ingesting chemicals than I do about him getting an infection. He has a healthy diet and a pretty relaxed lifestyle, so (knock wood) he has never needed medical intervention or antibiotics. He eats tomatoes (organic of course) off the vine, apples off the ground, and food off the floor (10 second rule ;) ). We aren’t a fastidious household, but we are healthy and happy.

    Anyway, I have heard reports of toddlers getting butt drunk on hand sanitizers, which is really dangerous for a little one. Plus, kids/young adults/grownups need to build up immunity. Yes, there are yucky bugs out there, but we are equipped to handle them!

  15. Anonymous

    It’s possible, 9:42, but current literature doubts the potential for ethanol tolerance to the point of decreased alcohol disinfectant efficacy. Also, while it’s definitely true that most bacteria are harmless/good for you, the hands can still harbor infectious strains. Several groups have shown that alcohol hand sanitizers can reduce the incidence of nuisance illness like cold & flu.

  16. Anonymous

    It’s possible, 9:42, but current literature doubts the potential for ethanol tolerance to the point of decreased alcohol disinfectant efficacy.

    Also, while it’s definitely true that most bacteria are harmless/good for you, the hands can still harbor infectious strains. Several groups have shown that alcohol hand sanitizers can reduce the incidence of nuisance illness like cold & flu.

  17. Anonymous

    If anyone could figure out how to become resistant to ethanol, it’s bacteria. Bacteria live in the harshest environments on earth (extreme temperatures, high concentrations of dangerous chemicals, in the deepest parts of the most extensive cave systems where sunlight never goes). Most bacteria is good though; only a tiny fraction of bacteria can actually harm you.

  18. Anonymous

    If anyone could figure out how to become resistant to ethanol, it’s bacteria. Bacteria live in the harshest environments on earth (extreme temperatures, high concentrations of dangerous chemicals, in the deepest parts of the most extensive cave systems where sunlight never goes). Most bacteria is good though; only a tiny fraction of bacteria can actually harm you.

  19. Anonymous

    In terms of resistance development it does matter how long bacteria are exposed to an antimicrobial agent, although yes, to some extent, there will be a selection for those cells that can survive the assault. Even so, as stated in the current scientific literature, nobody has seen appreciable ethanol resistance resulting from sanitizers/disinfectants. Scientific knowledge is dynamic. If you can find research suggesting that alcohol hand sanitizers do establish a selection that can lead to resistance/tolerance, please let infectioncontrol@wes know.

  20. Anonymous

    In terms of resistance development it does matter how long bacteria are exposed to an antimicrobial agent, although yes, to some extent, there will be a selection for those cells that can survive the assault. Even so, as stated in the current scientific literature, nobody has seen appreciable ethanol resistance resulting from sanitizers/disinfectants.

    Scientific knowledge is dynamic. If you can find research suggesting that alcohol hand sanitizers do establish a selection that can lead to resistance/tolerance, please let infectioncontrol@wes know.

  21. Anonymous

    Last year there were fliers encouraging hand washing in my dorm’s bathrooms, and they said that there was no evidence that topical hand sanitizers led to hand sanitizer-resistant microbes.Also: “desiccate” is a transitive verb, you silly video.

  22. Anonymous

    Last year there were fliers encouraging hand washing in my dorm’s bathrooms, and they said that there was no evidence that topical hand sanitizers led to hand sanitizer-resistant microbes.

    Also: “desiccate” is a transitive verb, you silly video.

Comments are closed.