'Mass use of hand gels risks creating superbug armageddon'

Mass use of hand gels to control Covid risks creating superbug ‘armageddon’ as other bacteria and viruses build up resistance, researchers warn

  • Dr Andrew Kemp, of the University of Lincoln, says alcohol hand gel use could allow other bacteria and viruses on our hands to survive and build resistance
  • Researcher says that there is currently no proof alcohol gel kills the coronavirus
  • WHO advises using hand gel if you cannot immediately access soap and water 

The mass use of hand gels during the coronavirus pandemic may create a superbug ‘armageddon’ as other bacteria and viruses build up a resistance, researchers have warned.

Dr Andrew Kemp has said that the overuse of alcohol-based hand gels during the pandemic will allow other bacteria and viruses on our hands to adapt and survive gel use. 

Dr Kemp, head of the Scientific Advisory Board on the British Institute of Cleaning Science, added that if this were to happen, it could lead to an ‘armageddon situation’, according to the Daily Express.

The fear over the spread of coronavirus in the UK led to panic-buying of sanitising hand gels has forced some retailers to ration supplies.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak wearing face coverings and using hand sanitising gel as they arrive for a visit to the Jobcentre Plus in Barking, east London last month as experts warn excessive hand gel use may allow bugs to build up a resistance risking a ‘superbug armageddon’

While demand has plateaued as the pandemic has progressed, hand sanitisers are still routinely used, often positioned at the entrance of shops and other public establishments.

But Dr Kemp says efforts should be focused on hand-washing instead which is the best way to rid your hands of bacteria and viruses.

He told the Express: ‘Hand gels should only be used as a last resort and as a short term temporary measure or stop gap if soap and water are not available.

‘At the moment there is no published proof that alcohol gels killed Covid-19 itself.

‘Even if they did kill 99.9 percent of all bacteria, there can be more than a million bacteria on your hands at any one time leaving 10,000 alive after sanitisation. 

‘Recent research shows the surviving bugs which are not killed by alcohol gels are themselves highly dangerous pathogens and may increase in numbers.

‘This means our routine use of gels could ultimately cause us more harm than good.’

Researchers say there is currently no research showing alcohol gel kills coronavirus (pictured)

Dr Kemp will present his findings at the International Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance conference in Amsterdam next October.

The World Health Organisation states the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus is to wash your hands, ensuring you use enough soap to cover your hands and using the towel to turn the tap off when hand washing is completed.

It states that hand gel should only be used ‘if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water’. 

The government’s Department of Health has campaigned about the importance of washing your hands during the pandemic, and advised: ‘You should wash your hands for 20 seconds, using soap and water or hand sanitiser’. 

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘The most effective means of preventing the spread of this virus remains to stay alert, follow social distancing rules, wash your hands regularly and wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces.’ 

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