Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Breeding New Bugs (Note UpDate: Very Important)

Everywhere I look, Purell hand sanitizers appear in public and semi-public places. I see them now at the courthouse. I just got an email from our building, stating that the management will mount dispensers here and there for our use. All of this, of course, arises from the flu epidemic that the country anticipates.

Natural selection being what it is, my question is this: What sort of new bugs are we breeding with these sanitizers? Would it be safe to say that the next round of flu viruses will be impervious to Purell and perhaps more dangerous, simply because of universal Purell use?

UPDATE: Mary and Cody set me straight on this. Please read their comments. As to my questions, we are breeding no new bugs with Purell and the next round will not be impervious nor more dangerous, simply because of Purell use.

5 comments:

mquodc said...

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work by making holes in the bacterial cell wall, which makes the cell contents spill out and the bacteria die. The CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol, which Purell contains. Most microorganisms can't tolerate 10% alcohol, which is why fermentation stops around 15% alcohol if the yeast have been bred to tolerate it.

As for viruses, alcohol makes the viral capsid fall apart.

So in other words, alcohol kills microorganisms in a very different way than antibiotics, and so there isn't any danger of alcohol-resistant bacteria appearing. And if they do, we can always use higher-strength alcohol hand sanitizers.

-cody

mary said...

My answer exactly. Alcohol-based sanitizers are good; I'll be using them in the med center, for sure.

Carol said...

That's good to know. Thanks, Cody and Mary!

Paul said...

Wow! That's all I can say. Except for thank you!

Sean said...

don't believe the yea-sayers! we are breeding the coming global super pandemic! ;-)