MAR 16, 2019 12:38 PM PDT

Excessive Hygiene Appears to Promote Antibiotic Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Microorganisms have been getting a lot of research attention in recent years. Genetic technologies have enabled scientists to learn more about the community of microbes we host - our microbiome, and how closely it is related to our health. Microbes are also increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotic drugs, and many bacterial infections are getting tougher to treat effectively. In the industrialized world, we are also exposed to a slew of products, like hand sanitizer, that are meant to limit our exposure to microbes. 

The intensive care unit of the Department of Internal Medicine at University Hospital Graz was one object of investigation. / Credit: © Medical University of Graz

Led by Gabriele Berg, who heads the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), researchers have found that in an environment, the extent of the hygiene and cleaning measures - microbial controls used influences how resistance develops in microbes. The research team has reported these findings in Nature Communications.

In this study, the researchers performed a comparison of places where strong microbial controls were employed with places with weak controls. They assessed the microbiomes there as well as the associated resistome - the resistance to antibiotics carried by the microbes in the microbiome. For locations with strong microbial controls, they used cleanrooms in the aerospace industry and the intensive care unit in the Department of Internal Medicine at University Hospital Graz. Areas of weak microbial control were regular public and private use buildings that weren’t subjected to frequent, rigorous sanitizing. The team found that in areas with high levels of hygiene, microbial diversity goes down while resistance diversity increases. 

Related: Dust with High Levels of Triclosan has More Antibiotic Resistance Genes

“In environments with strong microbial control in the intensive care unit and industrially used clean rooms, there are increasing antibiotic resistances which show a high potential for combining with pathogens,” explained Dr. Alexander Mahnert, director of studies at the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology of TU Graz, who is currently working at the Medical University of Graz.

The work suggests that while cleaner areas have stable levels of microbial diversity, that effect is counteracted by resistances there that can spread.

“The microbial control of pathogens is already being successfully used in cultivated plants and also in humans in the framework of stool transplantation. Our study provides an initial foundation to pursue such ideas in indoor areas in the future,” said Berg, who research also involves plant microbiomes.

It’s possible that probiotics for the environment, houseplants, fresh air, or reducing the use of antimicrobial agents can all help increase microbial diversity, which may reduce the activity of the resistome. The researchers at the Graz University of Technology want to follow up on this work and find ways to engineer microbial diversity.

In the video above, you can learn more about the microbiome from Berg.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Graz University, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 30, 2018
Videos
DEC 30, 2018
The FDA Advises Consumers to Wash Avocados Before Eating Them
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers that avocados present a risk of bacterial contamination....
JAN 09, 2019
Immunology
JAN 09, 2019
When a Virus Infects Bacteria
Researchers have used P. aeruginosa as a 'model system' for understanding how bacteria's interactions with viruses may affect human health....
FEB 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
FEB 16, 2019
The Role of the Gut-Lung Axis in the Development of Tuberculosis
Observations of the human microbiota date back as far as the 1680s when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek noted significant differences in the types of bacteria from...
FEB 13, 2019
Immunology
FEB 13, 2019
Dengue Meet Immune System
A physical interaction between two types of immune cells that plays an essential role in the early fight against dengue virus infection has been observed for the first time....
FEB 20, 2019
Microbiology
FEB 20, 2019
Lupus Flares are Connected to a Gut Microbe
Imbalances in the microbial community that lives in the human gut have been connected to a variety of disorders....
FEB 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
FEB 20, 2019
Rapid Idenditfication of Microorganisms in Positive Blood Cultures Using MALDI-TOF MS
Conventional methods of identifying a positive blood culture require waiting for the blood culture broth to grow the organism and once positive, it ha...
Loading Comments...