Influence of glycerol and an alternative humectant on the immediate and 3-hours bactericidal efficacies of two isopropanol-based antiseptics in laboratory experiments in vivo according to EN 12791

Antimicrob Resist Infect Control. 2017 Jun 27;6:72. doi: 10.1186/s13756-017-0229-5. eCollection 2017.


Background: Guidelines for hand hygiene recommend the use of alcohol-based hand rubs containing humectants in order to improve dermal tolerance. However, the bactericidal efficacy of pre-surgical hand rubs is negatively affected by the WHO-recommended humectant glycerol, especially the 3-h efficacy. The aim of this study was to investigate whether replacing glycerol as humectant increases the bactericidal efficacy of surgical hand rubs based on isopropanol (75%, wt/wt).

Material and methods: The efficacy of 3 and 5 min applications of a modified WHO II-formulation (containing lower glycerol concentrations) and the TPH 5766 hand rub which contains a new humectant (containing ethylhexylglycerin, dexpanthenol and a fatty alcohol) were compared to the European Norm 12,791 reference (n-propanol, 60%, vol/vol) immediately following and 3 h after application.

Results: Immediately after application both isopropanol-based surgical rubs approximated the performance of the reference. The 3-h effect of the modified WHO II-formulation was found to be less efficacious than the EN 12791, showing a 30% decrease in log10 reduction values. The 3-h post application effect for the TPH 5766 hand rub was found to not be different from EN 12791.

Conclusion: Based on our data, the bactericidal efficacy of isopropanol-based surgical hand rubs can best be obtained if glycerol is not used in the formulation. Unlike glycerol, a humectant comprised of ethylhexylglycerin, dexpanthenol and a fatty alcohol was found not to decrease hand rub effectiveness. Further investigation of the bactericidal efficacy of other humectants is necessary and may prove useful.

Keywords: Antiseptics; Humectant; Isopropanol-based; Surgical hand rub.