(NaturalNews) An interventional measure that some hospitals have put in place to combat the rise of drug-resistant "superbugs" is actually causing more of them to emerge, suggests a new study published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. So-called antiseptic baths, which are meant to sanitize patients and prevent the spread of deadly pathogens, are spurring a new class of resistant bacteria that outlives them, sparking fresh concerns about hospital safety.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland collected bacteria samples from patients in eight different intensive care units (ICUs) around the country that administer daily antiseptic washes. They also collected bacteria samples from 30 non-ICUs where antiseptic washes do not occur in order to compare how both sets of bacteria respond to chlorhexidine gluconate, or CHG, an antiseptic wash commonly used in hospitals.
Upon analysis, they determined that the bacteria in patients who do not receive daily CHG washes are more susceptible to the wash, while the bacteria in the regularly treated patients were less susceptible. In other words, repeated washings with CHG make remnant bacteria more resistant to it over time, while not treating bacteria in that way, or at least not as regularly, leaves bacteria more responsive to antiseptic treatment.
"Hospitals are appropriately using chlorhexidine to reduce infections and control the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms," claims Dr. Nuntra Suwantarat, M.D., lead author of the study. "However, our findings are a clear signal that we must continue to monitor bacteria for emerging antiseptic resistance as these antibacterial washes become more widely used in hospitals."
Even in hospitals where antiseptic washes are not administered, bacteria are still developing resistance
While bacterial susceptibility to antiseptic washes was found to be higher in patients who are not regularly given antiseptic baths, the spread of resistant bacteria in both settings is still increasing. According to the data, 69 percent of all bacteria from both antiseptic hospitals and non-antiseptic hospitals showed reduced susceptibility to CHG, suggesting that hospital superbugs are outsmarting all conventional approaches to dealing with them.
But the study authors say antiseptic washes are still valuable, even though they appear to be driving resistance at a higher rate than non-interventional approaches. Patients can still be tested individually to predict their susceptibility to infection based on antibiotic or antiseptic treatments. Hospitals can also be swabbed to look for specific types of bacteria in order to predict which strains will respond best to which treatments.
"The good news is that most bacteria remain vulnerable to CHG, despite the reduced susceptibility," said Dr. Suwantarat, ignoring the fact that, based on current trends, CHG baths will eventually be rendered ineffective. "Daily baths with a CHG solution remain effective against life-threatening bloodstream infections," she insists.