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article imageHand sanitizers called into question by U.S. FDA

By Tim Sandle     May 10, 2015 in Health
Bethesda - With the rise of hospital acquired infections, like MRSA, one of the key recommendations is to increase the level of hand sanitization. But how effective are these products?
In terms of effectiveness, the view of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that many products on the market are not that good. There are many commercially available hand sanitizers with the most commonly used types being alcohol-based gels. However, not all products are the same.
For this reason, FDA has published a statement indicating that they want to see evidence of both the safety and effectiveness of a broad range of products used in the healthcare setting. The FDA is also, as part of a separate evaluation, looking into consumer hand products as well (including triclosan.)
The topic is important because personnel working in hospitals and cleanrooms carry many types of microorganisms on their hands and such microorganisms can be readily transferred from person to person or from person to equipment or critical surfaces.
In addition to the efficacious nature of the products (or otherwise) another important concern is with their use. As with other disinfectants, such products only work well on hands that are relatively clean. This is because most disinfectants have poor penetrative ability. This means that if dirt, like grease or protein remains, then antiseptics have trouble getting trough this material in order to make contact with the pathogens.
A related factor is with 'contact time'. This is the period of time that the antiseptic needs to be in contact with the pathogens for. With most products this is between 30 seconds and one minute. This time is important because the chemical disinfectant needs to penetrate the microbial cell wall. The contact time is defined as the time needed for the hand rubbing or washing procedure.
Given these key factors, and the importance of effective antiseptics in keeping patients safe from pathogens, the FDA review is timely. It will be interesting to see how many products fall by the wayside as the review progresses. Importantly, FDA is not calling on the use of any products to be stopped in the short-term. "Health care antiseptics are an important component of infection control strategies in hospitals, clinics and other health care settings, and remain a standard of care to prevent illness and the spread of infection," said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is quoted as saying. "The FDA recommends that health care personnel continue to use these products consistent with infection control guidelines while additional data are gathered."
In related news, concerns have been expressed about how many times healthcare workers need to wash their hands or apply antiseptics. The downside here is a rise in skin conditions like dermatitis.
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