Hand hygiene is a proven method of preventing the spread of pathogens and reducing healthcare associated infections. Studies have shown that up to 50% of healthcare professionals’ (HCPs) hands were contaminated with the same pathogen as a patient with a confirmed multidrug resistant organism, such as MRSA or VRE, after exiting the room. This suggests that these bacteria were obtained through contact with the environment and/or patient. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy of alcohol based hand rubs and liquid soap at the removal of transient hand bacteria.
Seventy-five healthy adults were randomly chosen to participate in one of the five hand hygiene tests. Before implementing hand hygiene, moistened sterile swabs were used to rub the fingers, thumbs, and palms of both hands. The volunteers then performed one of the hand hygiene methods following WHO recommendations for hand washing and hand rubs. Wipes were used by applying a pulling motion on fingers and thumbs followed by rubbing the palms. The swabs were agitated for 15 seconds in a peptone broth and poured onto Petrifilms for incubation of 48 hours at 37ºC.
The percent reduction in transient hand bacteria using aerobic colony counts were enumerated and calculated as follows: 90% for wipes, 82% for liquid soap, 80% for gel, 72% for foam and 71% for spray. The wipes eliminated hand bacteria significantly better then the liquid soap (p =0.0247) while the gel (p = 0.7239) and foam (p = 0.0661) showed no significance. Lastly, the soap preformed significantly better than the spray (p = 0.0182).
This study demonstrated that alcohol based wipes performed better at removing transient bacteria from the hands than liquid soap and water. This result potentially provides another method for HCPs in reducing the risk of infection for their next patient and decreasing the likelihood of transmitting an infectious agent via hands.