Ethanol in pre-surgical hand rubs: concentration and duration of application for achieving European Norm EN 12791.
ABSTRACT In Europe, ethanol is a common active agent in hand rub formulations and nowadays it is also recommended in guidelines for hand hygiene published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the World Health Organization. However, data on the range of concentrations and durations of application providing a basis for passing the efficacy test of the European norm EN 12791 are still lacking. Therefore, the bactericidal efficacy of rubbing clean hands with pure ethanol in volume concentrations of 95%, 85% or 75% during 3 min was compared with that of the reference procedure of EN 12791 employing n-propanol 60% v/v for 3 min, immediately and 3h after disinfection. Ethanol 85% was also tested at a 5 min application. A Latin-square design was used with 20 randomly allotted volunteers. Whereas the mean immediate bacterial reductions caused by ethanol at concentrations of 75% (log RF 1.68) and 95% (log RF 2.70) were significantly less efficacious compared to that of the reference (log RF 3.27), at 85% they were not significantly less active with both applications, 3 and 5 min (log RFs 2.90 and 3.12, respectively). Three hours after antisepsis, the bacterial reduction on the gloved hand was only significantly less efficacious than that of the reference when 75% ethanol was used. It is concluded that ethanol-based hand rubs have a good chance of meeting the EN 12791 requirements if their ethanol concentration is >75% v/v but <95% v/v and if they are applied for at least 3 min.