Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Shedding of bacteria and skin squames after handwashing

P. B. Meersa1 and Gillian A. Yeoa1

a1 Public Health Laboratory, Plymouth General Hospital, Plymouth, Devon

Abstract

Particles released into the air by wringing the hands together were collected in a slit sampler before and after washing with bar soap, with three surgical scrubs, and after rubbing them with a spirit-based lotion. The particles were identified, their number estimated, those that bore bacteria counted, and the bacteria themselves classified. It was found that there was a significant increase, averaging 17-fold, in the number of particles carrying viable bacteria released after washing with soap. The increase in bacterial dissemination was suppressed if a surgical scrub was used in place of soap, or when the lotion was used without washing. The number of skin squames released increased by 18-fold or more after washing with soap or a surgical scrub, but not after using the lotion. This suggests that a surgical scrub should be used more widely in clinical practice, and that a spirit-based hand lotion might with advantage become a partial substitute for handwashing, particularly in areas where handwashing is frequent and iatrogenic coagulasenegative staphylococcal infection common.

(Received December 02 1977)

Metrics