Could you wipe away viral illness at home?


23rd June 2017


An interesting study published a couple of years ago showed that transmission of bacteriophage used as a surrogate for respiratory viruses was reduced significantly by introducing a once-per-day hand wipe in the home environment. Could this suggest that hand wipes have a role in reducing viral illness at home?

Five households, each containing two adults and three children, were included in the study. A female adult’s hands were inoculated with a high concentration of a non-pathogenic marker of virus spread: a common bacteriophage. The hands of all household members and surfaces in the house were then sampled 8 hours later to see how far the virus had spread. The process was then repeated, but this time with each household member asked to wipe their hands at least once per day with a sanitising wipe, in addition to normal hand washing with soap and water. The wipe intervention was associated with a significant reduction in contamination of the hands of the inoculated individual, and surfaces in the house. There was a non-significant reduction in contamination of non-inoculated hands.

The group then applied these findings to the potential transmission of key viruses, rhinovirus and rotavirus, concluding that there would be a 30-90% reduction in transmission risk of these viruses through a hand wipe intervention.

This study certainly supports the benefit of an increased frequency of hand cleansing in the home environment. The intervention could just as easily have been at least one extra hand wash per day using soap and water. However, a hand wipe provides convenience and accessibility that will almost certainly result in more hand cleansing being done!

Whilst the transmission of a bacteriophage may not follow the same dynamics as the transmission of a pathogenic virus, this study certainly provides compelling data in line with other studies that a hand wipe intervention in the home environment could help to prevent viral illness.



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