Liquid bleach does not kill off a hospital superbug that can cause fatal infections, researchers have found.
Clostridium difficile, also known as C diff, is a type of bacteria found in the human gut. While it can coexist alongside other bacteria without problem, a disruption to gut flora can allow C diff to flourish, leading to bowel problems including diarrhoea and colitis.
Severe infections can kill, with 1,910 people known to have died within 30 days of an infection in England during financial year 2021-2022.
Those at greater risk of C diff infections include people aged over 65, those who are in hospital, people with a weakened immune system and people taking antibiotics, with some individuals experiencing repeated infections.
According to government guidance, updated in 2019, chlorine-containing cleaning agents with at least 1,000 ppm available chlorine should be used as a disinfectant to tackle C diff.
But researchers say it is unlikely be sufficient, with their experiments suggesting that even at high concentrations, sodium hypochlorite – a common type of bleach – is no better than water at doing the job.
“With antimicrobial resistance increasing, people need to recognise that overuse of biocides can cause tolerance in certain microbes, and we’re seeing that definitely with chlorine and C diff,” said Dr Tina Joshi, co-author of the research, from the University of Plymouth.
While chlorine-based chemicals used to be effective at killing such bacteria, that no longer appears to be the case, she said.
“The UK doesn’t seem to have any written new gold standard for C diff disinfection. And I think that needs to change immediately,” she said.
Read full story
Source: The Guardian, 22 November 2023