A lab-based study using healthy volunteers has demonstrated that antimicrobial-impregnated hand wipes can do as well - if not better - than soap and water for hand hygiene. These findings provide more support for the idea that hand wipes could be a useful innovation in improving patient hand hygiene.
The study aimed to evaluate the use of an antimicrobial-impregnated wipe designed for hand hygiene against soap and water. The hands of 20 healthy volunteers were contaminated with a solution containing E. coli. The volunteers' hands were then allowed to air-dry before undergoing hand hygiene using soap and water, a control wipe (without antimicrobial agents) and a test wipe (with antimicrobial agents). The key result is that the antimicrobial-hand wipe was not inferior to the hand washing procedure using soap and water (3.7 log reduction for the hand wipe vs. 3.5 log reduction for the soap and water). The hand wipe without antimicrobial agents was inferior to hand washing using soap and water (2.5 log reduction for the hand wipe without antimicrobial agents vs. 3.5 log reduction for the soap and water).
The team also tested the antimicrobial activity of the "juice" squeezed from the antimicrobial-impregnated hand wipe. These tests showed that the antimicrobial achieved a >4 log reduction against all organisms tested after a 60 second contact time, and a >4-log reduction against all organisms except Candida albicans after a 30 second contact time. It is important to note that these suspension tests don't account for the physical removal of micro-organisms from hands.
There are no standards available for testing the effectiveness of wipes designed for hand hygiene use, so the methods used in this study ought to serve as a model for future experiments and testing standards.
This study demonstrates the exciting potential for antimicrobial-impregnated hand wipes to be used to improve hand hygiene for patients, who may not be able to access soap and water. These wipes may also have useful applications for hospital staff where access to soap and water is limited or when alcohol gel is not appropriate due to soiling.