LivingExcess hygiene promotes resistance to antibiotics

Excess hygiene promotes resistance to antibiotics

As the death toll from diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant germs increases, the concern of the World Health Organization (WHO) also grows, which considers that the task of developing countermeasures to stop the expansion of this type of germs is a global challenge.

To further understand this problem and try to find out the most effective ways to deal with it, the director of the Institute for Environmental Biotechnology at the University of Technology in Graz (Austria), Gabriele Berg, started an interdisciplinary research project on communities microbial associated with plants in indoor environments, in order to analyze how the degree of cleaning and hygiene measures influence the development of resistance to microbial control measures.

The results of that research, which have just been published in Nature Communications , indicate that stable microbial diversity in clinical areas counteracts the spread of antibiotic resistance. In other words, keeping hospitals absolutely pristine could be counterproductive.

The more variety of microbes, the better

Berg explains that microbial control of pathogens is already being used successfully in cultivated plants; and also in humans, in the framework of stool transplantation (the process of passing fecal bacteria from a healthy individual to a recipient). Regular air renewal, indoor plant placement, deliberate use of helpful microorganisms, and less use of antibacterial cleaning agents could be strategies that help maintain or enhance bacterial diversity. And that greater variety would contribute to a lower capacity of microorganisms to resist the action of antibiotics.

To carry out the study, the researchers compared all existing microorganisms and antibiotic resistance in an environment with strong microbial control – the Department of Internal Medicine of the University Hospital of Graz, which has extremely clean rooms – with those of a environment with weak microbial control – various public and private buildings. The analyzes showed that in areas with high levels of hygiene, microbial diversity decreases, while the diversity of resistance to antibiotics increases.

“In settings with strong microbial control, such as in the intensive care unit or industrial clean rooms, there is increasing resistance to antibiotics that show a high potential to combine with pathogens,” summarizes Dr. Alexander Mahnert, director of studies from the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology of the Graz University of Technology.

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