Washing Hands Best
"We studied the efficacy of 14 different hand hygiene agents in reducing bacteria and viruses from the hands. No other studies have measured the effectiveness in removing both bacteria and viruses at the same time." said a public health epidemiologist with the
For the first time, too, the UNC researchers tested what happened when people cleaned their hands for only 10 seconds. That represented the average length of time researchers observed busy health-care personnel washing or otherwise disinfecting their hands at work. Previous studies have had people clean their hands for 30 seconds or so, but that’s not what health-care workers usually do in practice, and the study wanted to test the products under realistic conditions.
Anti-microbial agents were best at reducing bacteria on hands, but waterless, alcohol-based agents had variable and sometimes poor effects, becoming less effective after multiple washes. For removing viruses from the hands, physical removal with soap and water was most effective since some viruses are hardy and relatively resistant to disinfection.
A report on the findings appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. Authors are professors of medicine and epidemiology at the UNC schools of medicine and public health; a professor of environmental sciences and engineering in public health; and medical technologist. A
"These findings are important because health-care associated infections rank in the top five causes of death, with an estimated 90,000 deaths each year in the
"Our study showed that the anti-microbial hand washing agents were significantly more effective in reducing bacteria than the alcohol-based handrubs and waterless handwipes," he said. "Our study also showed that, at a short exposure time of 10 seconds, all agents with the exception of handwipes demonstrated a 90 percent reduction of bacteria on the hands."
Alcohol-based handrubs were generally ineffective in demonstrating a significant reduction of a relatively resistant virus. While the use of alcohol-based handrubs will continue to be an important infection control measure, it is important to recommend or require traditional hand washing with soap and water throughout each day.
Researchers first had volunteers clean their hands and then contaminated their hands with Serratia marcescens, a harmless bacterium, and MS2 bacteriophage, a virus comparable to, and substituted for, disease-causing organisms. After that, scientists had the subjects clean their hands with various agents and measured how much of the bacteria and virus remained afterwards.
Adapted from materials from University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine.
From TPP — I’ve written about this topic. there is no difference in effectiveness between handwashing with regular soap or antibacterial soap, although there is a theoretical risk of contributing to bacteria resistance when you use an antibacterial soap product. (The article is reproduced below.)