Hand Hygiene

Take a Closer Look at Emerging Hand Microbiome Science

Sarah Wilson


By Sarah Wilson

Clinical Scientist, GOJO Industries Senior

In recent months, you may have seen news reports about the human microbiome and the impact it has on your overall health. Yet, numerous questions surrounding the human microbiome still remain.

The human microbiome refers to the microorganisms that live in and on humans; this could be in the gut, mouth, skin, eyes and lungs. In fact, our bodies have trillions of microbes, several times more than human cells. Today, microbiome science is recognized as a growing field, which involves many scientists and may play an important role in human health, from maintaining a healthy immune system to fighting disease. At GOJO, we are focused on understanding the impact of your hand microbiome.

Recently, a team of researchers from GOJO, Kent State University, University of Colorado Boulder and the University College London published “Review of Human Hand Microbiome Research” in The Journal of Dermatological Science. According to the report, hands are like a busy intersection, constantly connecting our microbiome to the microbiomes of other people, places and things. Hands are an important and evolving microbiome research field of study because of their critical nature to overall human health.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Noah Fierer from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, stressed the importance of understanding the hand microbiome. “Our hands play a critical role in transmitting microorganisms between people, pets, inanimate objects and our environments,” said Fierer. “Since hands are transporting microorganisms, including pathogens, between people, the dynamics of hand microbial communities and factors impacting them are important to understand.”  Fierer also commented that, “we cannot yet conclude what is a healthy hand microbiome. This is because our current understanding is limited by a lack of standardized methods among studies and a lack of information about the functional role of the hand microbiome.”

The literature review showed that while there are numerous advances in understanding the human microbiome, more research is needed on the hand microbiome. While research continues in the area of the hand microbiome, effective hand hygiene at key moments (e.g. before eating, after using the bathroom, before and after caring for someone that is ill, and after touching items in public that are rarely cleaned or touched by many) remains an important measure to help reduce illness and infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water is not available is recommended.1

Read the complete study here: Review of Human Microbiome Research. What are your questions about about the hand microbiome?

1 www.cdc.gov/handwashing 

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