Scientists have determined that we’ve all been washing our hands the wrong way. They say the simple soap up, vigorously rub until lather forms, then rinse method that we’ve been using isn’t very effective at killing the bacteria that collects on our hands.
But here’s the rub: after doing the six-step hand fandango, there were still an average of 2.58 colony-forming units of bacteria per milliliter on the study participants’ hands. In other words, even after you’ve vigorously scrubbed away and performed the “rotational rubbing of your thumbs” for a full 42.5 seconds, more than half of those bacteria that had been on your hands are still there, ready to form a “colony.”
And that’s not even the worst part. Standing in front of the sink in a public restroom washing your hands for 42.5 seconds is the functional equivalent of an eternity. Nobody spends that much time washing their hands — not even Howard Hughes. If you stood at a sink in a public bathroom for 42.5 seconds aggressively scouring your hands in a lathery storm, any other person who happened to be in the bathroom at the same time would conclude that you are either trying to eliminate DNA evidence after committing murder or on the verge of being committed for raging hypochondria.
So I don’t think I’m going to be spending 42.5 seconds enduring the over-the-top fragrances of hand soaps and giving my thumbs a workout in order to marginally reduce, but not come close to eliminate altogether, the bacteria hanging out on my hands. I’ll stick with the three-step method, get out of the bathroom within a reasonable time, and just let those hardy surviving bacteria go about their colony-forming business.
Beards seem to be a source of endless fascination for medical researchers and health care reporters. Ever since Peter Griffin grew a beard that served as home to a nest of birds on Family Guy, their prevailing view seems to be that male facial hair must be host to countless forms of microbial life and teeming with potential disease-causing agents.
Why would this be true? Researchers think that those two forms of bacteria might form colonies and breed in the microabrasions caused by men repeatedly scraping their faces with sharp objects (otherwise known as shaving). And, even more intriguing, a separate analysis indicates that beards may be home to microbes that actually kill bacteria, which could lead to the development of new forms to antibiotics — which something that the world desperately needs because bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to the current array of antibiotics.
That’s right: in the space of a single article, beards go from filthy petri dishes of lurking disease to the potential salvations of the human race! I think I’ll celebrate by guzzling some dairy products and letting a few drops find a whiskery home.
“Polio?”, you say. “That terrible affliction that paralyzed thousands of American children each year? But polio was eradicated by the development of the Salk vaccine.” Yes, but a vaccine can only work if the shot is delivered. In war-torn Syria, some children aren’t receiving their vaccinations — and the polio virus is still out there, lurking and ready to spread its infection that, for some unlucky few, will produce paralysis.
This is one of those stories that don’t get much attention because it isn’t threatening to most of us — at least, not right now. But the spread of “superbugs,” and the overuse of antibiotics that often kill “good” bacteria that are found in every human, are an enormously important public health issue. We need to stop the overuse of antibiotics that have contributed to the development of drug-resistant bacteria and focus on developing new vaccines and forms of treatment to fight the superbugs. Otherwise, one day we might wake up to find that the stout antibiotic line of defense that has protected humans from all manner of deadly diseases is simply gone.