Bacteria shown to have built immunity to hand sanitizers

Originally published at:


Can’t say that I really blame ‘Mother Earth’ for fighting back.

We rightfully worry about war, corruption and inequality, but what’s most likely to end us is new pathogens that our immune systems won’t be able to fight off, sad to say.


I can’t stand this stuff. It smells bad, leaves your hands feeling dirtier than you started, and demonstrably fails at its One Job.


We are as smart as we are stupid. We will develop newer methods to fight these bugs. Hopefully we’ll get to it soon before we lose too many people to the resistant bugs.


Side note: My kids liked to call this stuff
Sand Hanitizer


In the end dirt wins. Every time.


I don’t hold much hope for bacteriophages. They are not broad spectrum and difficult to store. Your immune system responds to them immediately and once you’ve established immunity the phages won’t be as effective on the second treatment.

Warm soapy water is very good for washing your hands, but slower. Everyone seems to have hand sanitizer in their car or purse, but do we know if anyone has actually avoided an illness by using this?



I dislike using hand sanitizers, i feel like they dry out my skin, i really dislike if they are scented which most of them are, i dislike the alcohol smell that stays on you for a while, and if its the gel kind i swear they leave an almost imperceptible residue on my hands. Plus, just wash you damn hands with soap and water… its not that hard or time consuming.


It’s like the tiger-repellant rock. It’s impossible to prove it is working, you can at best try to prove that it is necessary by not using it and then getting mauled by tiger waiting in the bushes of your New Jersey home.

I’m not a fan of these sanitizers because low level use of any anti-microbial in the wild always breeds resistance. This story is the opposite of surprising, it is exactly what we should have expected to happen given the history of fighting microbes. Eventually they’re going to start developing bleach resistance and we’re going to be really screwed.

Hand washing is better because you’re not trying to kill the buggers, you’re just washing them away. That said we are selecting for “sticky” bacteria that can cling to your hands even if you use soap. Eventually we’re going to be dealing with bacteria that are immune to alcohol, chlorine, all antibiotics, and even soap and water. We’re going to have to start sanitizing with lasers or something.


We have a big pump jug of the stuff at work. We labeled it “magic cut finder”


This is precisely why I don’t clean my apartment. I don’t want the mess to evolve into a supermess that infects my neighbors with uncleanable carpet stains and permanent dirty laundry piles. I’m very considerate.


what an unforeseeable turn of events


My wife and I have always hated that stuff and reminded our kids to use it only when soap and water were completely unavailable.


Just to be clear, bacteria aren’t “building immunity” to ethanol. There’s no immune response involved.

What’s happening is that frequent use of hand sanitizers kills organisms that are vulnerable to it (which is most of them, including your beneficial skin flora), leaving behind the 0.01% of species and strains that AREN’T vulnerable. In a freshly denuded ecosystem with no competition.

That’s not an immune-system response, that’s an evolutionary response to an ecosystem collapse —caused by the (unintended) artificial selection produced by poisoning most but not all inhabitants of the ecosystem.

Routine disinfection to near (but not completely) sterile conditions is almost always a bad idea - and that’s been known for a very long time.


Wow. It’s almost like evolution is real.

Yes. Marketing + ignorance is killing us all.

1 Like

/pedant Hand sanitizers are not bacteriophages, as they do not have anything living that colonizes the bacteria you want to eradicate and uses them to make more of themselves (viruses are good at this).

I’m a little surprised by this, as I thought that alcohol was a mechanical way of eliminating bacteria by disrupting their outer coat. It’s like developing immunity to a gunshot, although it looks more like some bacteria have the equivalent of Kevlar.


Duh! It has been blatantly obvious that this would happen ever since the hand sanitizers became ubiquitous. I complained to anyone who would listen to no avail. We learned nothing, NOTHING, from antibiotic resistance. God, people are stupid.