Published Studies Back Use of Latex Gloves in Swine Flu Kits

Amidst measures being taken to address the swine flu (H1N1 virus) outbreak, Operation USA and other groups are distributing precautionary kits that contain face masks and natural rubber latex gloves, according to the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (MREPC). There are many types of gloves on the market, but gloves made from natural rubber latex are most appropriate to guard against viral transmission, according to peer-reviewed, published studies posted at Natural rubber is also a renewable resource and biodegradable -- unlike synthetic rubber gloves, which are made from petroleum-derived materials.

Denise Korniewicz, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and senior associate dean for research at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, is an accomplished researcher and a recognized authority on the barrier integrity of medical gloves. She notes that barrier protection is paramount during the current swine flu outbreak.

“Although nitrile and vinyl gloves are available for hand protection, latex gloves still provide the most effective barrier against bacteria and viruses,” said Korniewicz. “Vinyl gloves are the least effective. To date, latex gloves remain the gold standard for barrier protection for healthcare workers.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Medical Glove Powder Report states that there are many gloves made from materials other than latex, such as synthetic rubbers or polymers, but “none possesses the unique mix of properties found in NRL (natural rubber latex) gloves." These properties include high tensile strength and elasticity. The latter property allows the gloves to reseal holes created from accidental needlesticks, which often happen in the healthcare setting.

Latex gloves are produced by countries such as Malaysia, the world’s leading producer of latex and nitrile gloves. All gloves from Malaysia meet FDA requirements. Quality certified premium latex examination gloves are also available under the Standard Malaysian Glove (SMG) program. SMG gloves have controlled low protein levels and are environmentally friendly.