GOJO Scientists, Leading Researchers Study Emerging Hand Microbiome Science and Its Impact on Health

Leading experts in hand hygiene, skin health science and the human microbiome recently 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.

The human microbiome is the microorganisms that live in and on humans, this could be in the gut, mouth, skin, eyes and lungs.  Our bodies have 100 trillion microorganisms, 10 times more than human cells. Microbiome science is a growing field involving many scientists which may play an important role in human health, from maintaining a healthy immune system to fighting disease. 

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.”

GOJO, a leader in hand hygiene and skin health sciences, continues to work with leading researchers, including Fierer, studying the hand microbiome. Jim Arbogast, PhD, GOJO vice president of hygiene sciences and public health advancements, views the evolving science in hand microbiome as an important milestone and extension of the vast knowledge GOJO has in the area of hand hygiene and skin health, “It is well established that hand hygiene is one of the best preventive measures we can take to reduce illness and infection, because it rapidly reduces the load of potentially illness-causing germs, while still leaving normal, resident microorganisms behind. Today, with the emerging science of our hand microbiome, we are working with microbiome experts to conduct larger, controlled studies with the best scientific methods to increase the understanding of the microbiome ecosystem of our hands and the relationship with  health outcomes.”   

The literature review, which was conducted by researchers from GOJO, Kent State University, University of Colorado Boulder and the University College London, analyzed the 18 published, scientific, peer-reviewed articles currently available describing the microbes found on human hands using culture-independent methods. The literature review showed that while there are numerous advances in understanding the human microbiome, more research is needed on the hand microbiome. Future skin microbiome studies should include hand sampling and resolve the methodological influences on results, as knowledge of the hand microbiome is critical for understanding overall human skin microbiome dynamics.

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 (CDC), handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water is not available is recommended.(1)

1. www.cdc.gov/handwashing

Source: GOJO Industries