Alcohol gels: Causing more harm than good?

Dr Andrew Kemp JP PhD, reader in biology, head of Scientific Advisory Group BICSc, discusses new evidence that suggests alcohol gels could be causing more harm than we thought.

Several pieces of a significantly important research, have now come together to present a very different picture of the outcomes we can expect from the current doctrine on hand hygiene in our healthcare facilities. 

The new evidence, (one piece of which was produced by the BBC TV series ‘Twinsitute’), shows beyond any doubt that alcohol gels have the capacity to not only increase the number of bacteria on skin, but to significantly change the species of bacteria that colonise the skin. Further, the species that is shown to replace the natural skin commensals, is a bacillus. This therefore carries an increase risk due to its potential for significantly more harm.1 

When alcohol is applied to the skin on hands, two previous research papers both demonstrate a significant increase in bacterial numbers over time on the hands.2, 3 Yet another paper showed similar results using surgical skin preps on abdominal skin prior to surgery.4 

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