Last updateThu, 13 Aug 2020 5am

Experts stress the importance of good hand washing and drying in preventing infection

Poor toilet hygiene found to be responsible for the spread of key antibiotic resistant E. coli strains

Experts at Public Health England have found that human to human transmission, likely due to people not washing their hands after going to the toilet, is behind the spread of key antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli.

The study[i], published in the respected medical journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases, points to the crucial importance of proper hand washing and drying following a visit to the toilet in preventing the spread of infection.

Some E. coli produce enzymes (ESBLs) that destroy penicillin and other related antibiotics in common use. E. coli is the most common cause of blood poisoning, frequently causes urinary tract infections and sometimes also food poisoning.

Some 80%[ii] of illnesses are transmitted by our hands. We each touch literally hundreds of objects every day – from door handles, seats and hand rails through to lift buttons and money. Effective hand washing and drying following a visit to the toilet are the first line of defence in minimising infection risks. The whole process should take at least 20 seconds and hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and dried with single use towels – the most hygienic way to prevent disease and transmission of microbes.

Expert bacteriologists undertaking laboratory and real-life studies on hand drying as part of the hand washing process have found that electric dryers contaminate both the air and surfaces with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses including including MRSA, enterobacteria and enterococci, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. [iii], [iv], [v], [vi],.

A multisite study[vii] in hospital washrooms in France, Italy and UK concluded that paper towels offer the most hygienic way to dry hands and minimise the spread of infection, and experts are already advising the use of paper towels and discouraging the use of electric hand dryers in hospitals.


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