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Poop happens, handwashing often doesn’t

Did you use this device today?


And you washed your hands afterwards? If so, you are in the minority of humans on the planet. Only 19% of people worldwide wash their hands after excreting.

Equally surprising, handwashing campaigns only have limited effectiveness in reducing infectious diarrhea, showing on average a reduction of about 23%.

Read the paper here.

Complete text available here:  Hygiene and health: systematic review of handwashing practices worldwide and update of health effects.

Implication: humans share microbes, including fecal microbes, all the time. Most of the time, the shared microbes do not cause infectious diarrhea. It is interesting to consider that each individual’s microbiota includes many pioneers that disperse and colonize other individuals. Room for thought: is it possible that some microbes benefit if their hosts are less fastidious? Certain microbes would have a potential fitness benefit, perhaps, if they could influence the handwashing habits of their hosts.

Final thought: Going on a trip? Consider New Zealand, highest with estimated 72% handwashing. Bring hand sanitizer, and your own food, when visiting Tanzania, estimated 5%.

Late breaking extra: Too much human feces on Mt Everest report in the Guardian

And this priceless bit from the comments section:

“Anyone contemplating a visit to the subcontinent should consider that 700 million people defecate in the open every day. As dawn blushes the golden mountains with its rosey rays, millions of anuses release to deposit fresh mountains of excrement on every road side, behind every tree, in vegetable patches, on footpaths. Every breath inhales dried and powdered human feces and black soot.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Joe Alcock

Emergency Physician, Educator, Researcher, interested in the microbiome, evolution, and medicine

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