The Germs on Your Hands…and Your Home’s Surfaces

The Germs on Your Hands…and Your Home’s Surfaces

As reported by The Today Show, a mom posted a picture of her child’s handprint online, and the seemingly innocuous idea created quite a stir. It wasn’t just any handprint; the mom, who is also a microbiology lab tech, actually took a culture of her child’s hand in a petri dish after he’d been outside playing. The result was a tangible – if not disturbing – reminder of the germs that are likely to be on our hands at any given moment.

Using sterile plates and a trypticase soy agar – used to grow bacteria – the mother captured her son’s handprint. She then kept the dish, kept at slightly below 3 degrees Celsius, for one day, followed by several more days at room temperature. The results? Growths included Staphylococcus and Micrococcus (both bacteria) and Bacillus, a bacteria commonly found in dirt. Also present in the sampling was yeast and fungi.

If anything, this simple experiment is a reminder that surfaces are usually not as clean as we think they are, and that proper sanitation and hygiene is always a good idea. 

Dr. Philip Tierno, the director of clinical microbiology at the New York University Hospital Center and the author of “The Secret Life of Germs” explained to the Today Show that proper hand washing doesn’t take as long as you might think.

“It takes 20 seconds to appropriately wash your hands — getting in between your fingers, getting on top of your knuckles, getting under your nail bed with at least one swoop each time with a lot of soap on, and then rinsing,” Tierno said, according to the Today Show.

Even with clean hands, the likelihood of touching a contaminated surface – even in your own home – is high. Some of the biggest offenders in a home are high traffic areas frequented by kids and pets; frequent touchpoints like TV remotes, door handles and light switches; and areas naturally prone to contamination like bathrooms should all be high on the list of places to keep as clean as possible.


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