Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-tx785 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-04T01:08:30.383Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Shedding of bacteria and skin squames after handwashing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009

P. B. Meers
Public Health Laboratory, Plymouth General Hospital, Plymouth, Devon
Gillian A. Yeo
Public Health Laboratory, Plymouth General Hospital, Plymouth, Devon
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


Core share and HTML view are not possible as this article does not have html content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

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.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1978



Bethune, D. W., Blowers, R., Parker, M. & Pask, E. A. (1965). Dispersal of Staphylococcus aureus by patients and surgical staff. Lancet i, 480.Google Scholar
Clark, R. P. (1974). Skin scales among airborne particles. Journal of Hygiene 72, 47.Google Scholar
Davies, R. R. & Noble, W. C. (1962). Dispersal of bacteria on desquamated skin. Lancet ii, 1295.Google Scholar
Kurtz, J. B. & Boxall, J. (1976). A partial substitute for hand washing. Nursing Times 72, 332.Google Scholar
Lowbury, E. J. L. & Lilly, H. A. (1973). Use of 4% chlorhexidine detergent solution (Hibiscrub) and other methods of skin disinfection. British Medical Journal i, 510.Google Scholar
Lowbury, E. J. L. & Lilly, H. A. (1975). Gloved hand as applicator of antiseptic to operation sites. Lancet ii, 153.Google Scholar
Lowbury, E. J. L., Lilly, H. A. & Ayliffe, G. A. J. (1974). Preoperative disinfection of surgeons' hands: use of alcoholic solutions and effects of gloves on skin flora. British Medical Journal iv, 369.Google Scholar
Meers, P. D. (1976). Intravenous infusions: the potential for and source of contamination. In Microbiological Hazards of Infusion Therapy (ed. Phillips, I., Meers, P. D. & D'Arcy, P. F.), p. 59. Lancaster: M.T.P. Press.Google Scholar
Ojajärvi, J., Mäkelä, P. & Rantasalo, I. (1977). Failure of hand disinfection with frequent hand washing: a need for prolonged field studies. Journal of Hygiene 79, 107.Google Scholar
Speers, R., Bernard, H., O'grady, F. & Shooter, R. A. (1965). Increased dispersal of skin bacteria into the air after shower-baths. Lancet i, 478.Google Scholar