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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
03 Dec 2019

Brussels, 3 December 2019; 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.viii]

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About ETS

ETS is the European Tissue Paper Industry Association. The members of ETS represent the majority of tissue paper producers throughout Europe and around 90% of the total European tissue production. ETS was founded in 1971 and is based in Brussels. For more information: www.europeantissue.com.



[i] The team analysed 20,000 human faecal samples, 300 blood samples plus hundreds of sewage samples, animal slurry and meats. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(19)30273-7/fulltext

[ii] Centres for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

[iii] Microbiological comparison of hand drying methods: the potential for contamination of the environment, user and bystander. E.L. Best,1 P. Parnell,1 M.H. Wilcox 1,2 – Microbiology Department, Old Medical School, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust1 & University of Leeds,2 Leeds LS1 3EX, UK. Journal Hospital Infection 2014; 88:199-206.

[iv] “Comparison of different hand-drying methods: the potential for airborne microbe dispersal and contamination” Keith Redway (Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Westminster, London, UK) and by E.L. Best (Microbiology Department, Old Medical School, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds UK). Journal Hospital Infection 2015; 89:215-217

[v] Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods P.T. Kimmitt and K.F. Redway. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Westminster, London, UK. Journal of Applied Microbiology 120, 478--486 © 2015

[vi] Pilot study to determine whether microbial contamination levels in hospital washrooms are associated with hand-drying method M.H. Wilcox E.L. Best, P. Parnell Microbiology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust & University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. Journal of Hospital infection 2017; 97 200-2003.

[vii] https://europeantissue.com/hygiene/is-your-hand-drying-method-spreading-bacteria/

https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(18)30366-9/pdf

[viii] German hospitals recommend paper towels be used for hand drying following hand washing in public washrooms due to their excellent hygiene properties. The French Society for Hospital Hygiene, SF2H, strongly discourages the use of electric hand dryers in hospital washrooms and recommends single use paper towels as the most effective way to dry hands and minimise the spread of infection.

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