Excessive hygiene promotes resistance to antibiotics

Excessive hygiene promotes resistance to antibiotics

The number of people who become ill and die from antibiotic-resistant germs is increasing worldwide. The World Health Organization WHO sees understanding the spread of antibiotic resistance and developing countermeasures as one of the most important global challenges.

The research group investigated microbial control - the degree of cleaning and hygiene measures - and how it influences the development of resistances. The results of the research have just been published in Nature Communications.

The researchers compared the microbiome and the resistome - i.e. all existing microorganisms and antibiotic resistances - at the intensive care unit with clean rooms subject to strong microbial control in the aerospace industry and with public and private buildings which have hardly any microbial controls. The analyses show that microbial diversity decreases in areas with high levels of hygiene but that the diversity of resistances increases.

 'In environments with strong microbial control in the intensive care unit and industrially used clean rooms, there are increasing antibiotic resistances which show a high potential for combining with pathogens,' explains the author.

The results indicate that a stable microbial diversity in clinical areas counteracts the spread of resistances. 'The microbial control of pathogens is already being successfully used 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,' says the author. Regular airing, houseplants, the deliberate use of useful microorganisms and the reduction of antibacterial cleaning agents could be the first strategies in maintaining or improving microbial diversity.

In a subsequent step, the research team would like to develop and implement biotechnological solutions for a tailor-made microbial diversity.