Better hand hygiene can protect a person against the flu. The journal “mSphere” by the American Society of Microbiology has published a research related to this finding.
Previously, the researchers thought that ethanol-based sanitizers can prevent infection from flu viruses. That can thrive and spread in mucus and saliva. But this study has given new insight. Its results have suggested that still there’s a need for improvement in this hand hygiene approach.
Influenza A virus and exposure to EBD
Flu is an infection that affects the respiratory system. The influenza A virus – IAV remains infectious in wet mucus, that comes from the infected persons. The researchers have found that IAV can retain this ability even after exposure to an EBD – ethanol-based disinfectant for two minutes.
The researchers have also revealed that exposure to EBD for nearly four minutes is enough to fully deactivate the virus. Later, the research team found the secret for viral survival. And stated that the virus was able to thrive due to the thick consistency of sputum.
Where its thick hydrogel structure prevented the ethanol from entering and deactivating the influenza A virus. This suggests that the physical properties of mucus are protecting IAV from inactivation. So, until the mucus doesn’t get completely dry, IAV will stay on the hands and fingers.
And it can remain there even after rubbing hands with an antiseptic. All these findings imply that a splash of hand sanitizer applied quickly, isn’t enough to stop the influenza A virus. And health care providers need to be more cautious.
As if they don’t sufficiently inactivate the virus among patients, they can enable the spread of IAV. Firstly, the research team analyzed the physical properties of mucus. The results were much similar to their predictions. And they found that ethanol spreads quite slowly through the viscous substances as compared to saline.
Using an antiseptic soap is a better approach
Later, in a clinical component, the team assessed the sputum obtained from patients infected with IAV and applied it to human fingers. The goal was to create situations in which medical staff could spread the IAV virus. After exposing this virus to EBD for two minutes, it remained active in the mucus on the fingers.
But after four minutes of exposure, the virus was found deactivated. This finding has that better hand hygiene can protect from IAV. Previously, many studies have shown that EBDs or ethanol-based disinfectants are efficient against IAV. While the new findings have challenged the results of these studies.
The researchers suspect that testing the disinfectants on already dried mucus in many studies, can be a reason for this variation in results. To validate this suspicion, the research team repeated their experiments by using fully dried mucus. And the results suggested that hand rubbing can inactivate the virus within 30 seconds.
Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended hand hygiene practices for preventing flu. That includes using ethanol-based disinfectants for nearly 15 – 30 seconds. But the results of this study have implied that this time period isn’t enough to prevent transmission of IAV.
So, by using the study results, researchers have identified a better hand hygiene strategy. That is also endorsed by the WHO and CDC. This strategy includes washing hands, and not just rubbing them. The team has found that washing hands using an antiseptic soap can deactivate the virus within 30 seconds. And the result was the same even in the case of wet mucus.