Corporate Statements

Friday, August 3, 2018

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Do Not Create Superbugs

A recent study in Science Translational Medicine is causing concern amongst public health thought leaders because it is misleading, applying results inappropriately to (ethyl) alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The study tested efficacy of isopropanol (isopropyl) alcohol in a 23% concentration, whereby hand sanitizers typically use ethyl alcohol in a 70% concentration.

Because the study doesn’t base its findings on the type of products found in real-world settings, it’s misleading. Many thought leaders, including Dr. Didier Pittet, lead author of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene guidelines, are speaking out publicly and cautioning that “Misinterpreting the relevance of results to real-life situations can lead to unnecessary panic, wasted resources, and possibly, bad policy decisions.”

Here’s why thought leaders are speaking out:

  • The study is not applicable to real-world infection prevention and control as the resistance finding was only with very low concentrations of isopropyl alcohol (NOT ethyl alcohol, the active ingredient in the majority of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and the isopropyl alcohol was much lower than the 70% concentration found in marketed hand sanitizers like PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer).
  • The study was designed to investigate “tolerance” to isopropanol which is the ability of germs to survive in low levels of alcohol. These results are not relevant to the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. In fact, the authors state that “at full strength isopropanol killing was complete” and that they could not detect differences between clinical isolates.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, like PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, DO NOT create superbugs. The ethyl alcohol in hand sanitizers kills germs within seconds by physically destroying the cell membrane and denaturing proteins within the bacteria. Furthermore, because ethyl alcohol evaporates from the hands within seconds no residual alcohol is left on the skin so there is no opportunity for germs to become resistant.
  • The benefits of alcohol-based hand sanitizers for safeguarding public health are well documented in many settings; leading health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend alcohol-based hand sanitizers to fight the spread of germs that cause illness and infection.


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