I was thinking about how alcohol is used to sterilize, and I was wondering if it would be possible to use alcohol as an antibiotic? if it kills bacteria, couldn't (conceivably) alcohol in the bloodstream kill any bacteria there, and the alcohol would be cleaned out by the liver later? Or would the concentration of alcohol necessary be too high and cause poisoning?

Sorry if this has an extremely obvious answer, but all of the results I found in Google were about drinking alcohol while on antibiotics.

Could, in theory, alcohol (delivered in any way) be used as an antibiotic? If so, how? If not, why?


1 Answer 1


No. The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer at at least 60% ethanol. Most preparations used in the lab are 70% ethanol. Humans start to risk death somewhere around the 0.3% alcohol level (BAC), especially around 0.5%. People have gone higher, but even 1% BAC would be completely useless against bacteria. You'd be dead long before the bacteria died. Besides, if you've got bacteria in your blood, you've got bigger problems than a simple infection.

In a pinch, though, it can be used as a topical antiseptic, as per this fun article.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I didn't think that this would work, but I thought I'd ask some people who actually know. $\endgroup$
    – Linuxios
    Nov 25, 2013 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, what makes alcohol poisonous to humans? Is there any chemical that can inhibit that? $\endgroup$
    – Linuxios
    Nov 25, 2013 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Linuxios that deserves a question (well, two actually), it's not really something that can be answered in 600 characters. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Nov 25, 2013 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ Minor quibble: as elaborated in the rest of your answer, the answer is arguably "technically yes, but it would kill you". $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Feb 14, 2018 at 12:05

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