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King's marks Global Handwashing Day

Bacteria for some of the UK’s most prevalent illnesses were found on the hands of ten King’s students, in a Longitude Prize experiment to mark today's Global Handwashing Day initiative.
 
Longitude Prize is encouraging good hand hygiene to fight off germs before they attack, thereby avoiding the need for a course of antibiotics. The challenge, with a £10m prize, is to find a way to detect bacterial infections so that antibiotics are only prescribed to cure the right illness, at the right time.
 
This follows growing concern about the threat of antibiotic resistance, whereby misuse of antibiotics leads to the emergence of bacteria that cannot be controlled by available medicines.
 
Dr Paul Long, Microbiologist and Reader in Pharmacognosy at King’s College London, took swabs from 10 volunteers and analysed the bacteria he found on their hands. He found all the principle purveyors for illnesses such as gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection, and skin and eye infections - highlighting the importance of practising good hand hygiene.

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Glow gel was used to highlight the remaining bacteria after handwashing.

Dr Long said: ‘Our results turned up the usual suspects - staphylococci, streptococci and coryneform bacteria that are found on all of our hands, but there was a surprise; we also found E. coli which is a bacterium usually found in our guts. The only way this bug can stay on your hands is if you don’t wash your hands either after using the toilet, changing a baby’s nappy or handling uncooked food. E. coli is a particular worry because it is now the most common disease-causing bug that is increasingly resistant to antibiotics in the UK.’
 
Tamar Ghosh, Longitude Prize Lead, commented: ‘Our experiment shows the snow-ball effect of not washing our hands properly. The more bacterial infections we get, the more antibiotics taken and the more resistant bacteria become to the drugs that we all rely on. Taking small steps like washing hands could play a big role in safeguarding antibiotics for generations to come.’
 
Longitude Prize will open for entries later this autumn and is run and developed by Nesta, with Innovate UK as funding partner.

Notes to editors

Find out more about Longitude Prize and Global Handwashing Day.

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Press Officer at King’s College London, on 0207 848 3238 or email jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk

For further information about King's visit our 'King's in Brief' page.

Photo credit: Matt Alexander/PA