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News Release

Catch it, Bin it, Kill it - and Show it! ’S’not a problem for the SGM

03 June 2009 Microbiology Society

We all know that coughs and sneezes spread diseases – and that we
should wash our hands to prevent passing on nasty viruses and
bacteria. But how many of us just flick our hands under a dribbling
tap and think that will do? Now hopeless hand washers will be caught
– not red-handed - but with glowing green fingers, by the Society for
General Microbiology’s (SGM) good hand washing test.

A team from the SGM will be at the Cheltenham Science Festival
demonstrating their hand washing training kit that uses a cream
containing a harmless dye that glows green in ultraviolet light to
show up shoddy hand washing.

“Under finger nails and the cracks between fingers are the usual
sites which get missed, said SGM’s Dariel Burdass, “We put a blob of
cream on people’s hands and send them away to wash them. When they
come back they are often amazed at how much glowing green dye remains
on their fingers – if the dye was a nasty microbe they would be
standing a good chance of infecting themselves and passing it on to
other people.

The team also use the glowing cream to show how viruses such as those
that cause colds and flu can survive on hard surfaces and be spread
from hand to hand. Just touching a doorknob that has had a little of
the special cream applied to it, can make people’s fingers turn green
under UV light – and then when they touch another person’s hand the
green glow gets passed on.

“Although this is great fun for children as it has a real “yuk”
factor,” Dariel continued, “It has a serious side too. The current TV
adverts about swine flu stress that we should use a tissue when we
sneeze to stop virus-laden droplets spreading over a wide area. Our
hand washing test shows very clearly how viruses can spread from hand
to hand and by touching contaminated surfaces”.

The message seems to be hitting home. One participant remarked, “I
hadn’t realised the huge difference that washing my hands could make
to the spread of colds. Next time I sneeze I won’t be wiping my hands
down my jumper!”

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