Excessive Hygiene Promotes Antibiotic Resistance

Dentistry Today


As the number of people who die from antibiotic-resistant germs continues to increase around the world, stable microbial diversity in clinical areas can counteract the spread of antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at the Graz University of Technology in Styria, Austria. 

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund, the researchers’ Plant-Associated Microbial Communities in Indoor Environment project investigated microbial control—the degree of cleaning and hygiene measures—and how it develops the development of resistance, along with the Medical University of Graz and other university and international partners.

The researchers compared the microbiome and the resistome, which is all existing microorganisms and antibiotic resistances, at the intensive care unit of the Department of Internal Medicine at University Hospital Graz with clean rooms operated by the aerospace industry and public and private buildings. The analysis shows that microbial diversity decreases in areas with high levels of hygiene, but the diversity of resistances increases.

“Build environments with strong microbial control like the intensive care unit and industrially used clean rooms show high proportions of antibiotic resistances, which have the potential to get transferred into pathogens,” said Dr. Alexander Mahnert, director of studies at the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology and researcher at the Medical University of Graz.

“The microbial control of pathogens is already established 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 Dr. Gabriele Berg, head of the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology.

Regular airing, houseplants, the deliberate use of beneficial microorganisms, and the reduction of antimicrobial cleaning agents could be the first strategies in maintaining or improving microbial diversity, the researchers said. Subsequently, the researchers would like to develop and implement biotechnological solutions for tailor-made microbial diversity. 

The study, “Man-Made Microbial Resistances in Built Environments,” was published by Nature Communications.

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