Skip to main content

Dirty hands: bacteria of faecal origin on commuters' hands

  • G. JUDAH (a1), P. DONACHIE (a1), E. COBB (a1), W. SCHMIDT (a1), M. HOLLAND (a2) and V. CURTIS (a1)...

Although many studies have investigated bacteria on the hands of health-care workers and caregivers, few have looked at microbiological contamination on the hands of the general adult public. This study investigated faecal bacteria on the hands of commuters in five UK cities. Of the 404 people sampled 28% were found to have bacteria of faecal origin on their hands. A breakdown by city showed that the proportion of people with contaminated hands increased the further north the city of investigation (P<0·001), an effect which was due in large part to a significant trend in men but not in women. Bus users were more contaminated than train users. The results of this exploratory study indicate that hand hygiene practices in the UK may be inadequate and that faecal indicator bacteria on hands may be used to monitor the effect of hand-washing promotion campaigns.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Mrs G. Judah, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, LondonWC1E 7HT, UK. (Email:
Hide All
1.Boschi-Pinto, C, Velebit, L, Shibuya, K. Estimating child mortality due to diarrhoea in developing countries. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2008; 86: 710717.
2.Jamieson, D, et al. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
3.Curtis, V, Cairncross, S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infectious Diseases 2003; 3: 275281.
4.Wheeler, JG, et al. Study of infectious intestinal disease in england: rates in the community, presenting to general practice, and reported to national surveillance. British Medical Journal 1999; 318: 10461050.
5.Curtis, V, et al. Hygiene in the home: relating bugs and behaviour. Social Science & Medicine 2003; 57: 657672.
6.Whitby, M, McLaws, M-L, Ross, MW. Why healthcare workers don't wash their hands: a behavioral explanation. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 2006; 27: 484492.
7.Pittet, D, et al. Bacterial contamination of the hands of hospital staff during routine patient care. Archives of Internal Medicine 1999; 159: 821826.
8.Gibson, LL, et al. Quantitative assessment of risk reduction from hand washing with antibacterial soaps. Symposium Series (Society for Applied Microbiology) 2002; 92: 136S143S.
9.Larson, EL, et al. Microbial flora of hands of homemakers. American Journal of Infection Control 2003; 31: 7279.
10.Reynolds, KA, et al. Occurrence of bacteria and biochemical markers on public surfaces. International Journal of Environmental Health Research 2005; 15: 225234.
11.Zou, G. A modified Poisson regression approach to prospective studies with binary data. American Journal of Epidemiology 2004; 159: 702706.
12.Pinfold, JV, Horan, NJ. Measuring the effect of a hygiene behaviour intervention by indicators of behaviour and diarrhoeal disease. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1996; 90: 366371.
13.Wendt, C, et al. Survival of vancomycin-resistant and vancomycin-susceptible enterococci on dry surfaces. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 1998; 36: 37343736.
14.Scott, BE, et al. Marketing hygiene behaviours: The impact of different communication channels on reported handwashing behaviour of women in Ghana. Health Education Research 2008; 23: 392401.
15.Manun'Ebo, M, et al. Measuring hygiene practices: a comparison of questionnaires with direct observations in rural zaire. Tropical Medicine and International Health 1997; 2: 10151021.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed