Handwashing, aseptic techniques and the spread of germs

Handwashing, aseptic techniques and the spread of germs

Handwashing, aseptic techniques and the spread of germs

Sometimes we forget the importance of hand washing over time. It is something that we do multiple times a day as we prepare food, go to the washroom, or if you’re a scientist when you enter and leave the lab. One of the main reasons we wash our hands is to prevent the spread of germs. So, what are germs? Germ is an all-encompassing term for viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa that can cause disease: aka small harmful cells! These germs are everywhere, can grow very fast and if we aren’t careful can make us sick! 

These organisms can live and thrive in many different conditions, but their best chance to survive is on or in your body, where they can reproduce. Without being spread to people, these organisms could die after a number of hours. 

However, the consequences of not washing hands after encountering these germs, such as after a visit to the mall or the bathroom, can be severe. These germs can enter your body, leading to a range of conditions from common cold to strep throat, all the way to serious illnesses. The disease you contract is beyond your control without proper hand hygiene!

Beyond your health, there are environments where the spread of these germs can escalate into a significant problem. For instance, in a laboratory, if you were to be conducting a cell culture and your flask got inoculated with a random bacteria, it could overrun the cells you intended to grow. If not detected in time, this could lead to the death of your cell line, requiring recovery with antibiotics. This would not only delay your experiments but also incur additional costs. Moreover, if what was inoculated had a spore-forming life cycle, it could potentially ruin all the experiments in your lab. 

What is a spore-forming life-cycle? When certain bacteria, fungi or even some plants are growing they pass through multiple stages of life, one of which has the goal of reproduction: this is when spores can be formed. An important detail of spores is that they are airborne so there is less likelihood of local competition for nutrients. In an incubator this causes all samples to get contaminated as the medium that cells grow in or on is super rich in nutrients. 

When the pandemic started people changed their regular washing methods for using sanitizers regularly. 

The active ingredient in the sanitizer, the alcohol, disrupts the proteins that are essential for the bacteria's survival. This disruption, known as denaturation, essentially renders these proteins useless by altering their structure beyond repair. As a result, the bacteria lose their ability to carry out vital functions and eventually perish.

Moreover, the integrity of the bacteria's outer membrane is compromised due to the denaturation of proteins within it. This membrane, akin to a protective barrier for the bacteria, becomes destabilized, leading to increased fluidity and eventual breakdown. So, while sanitizer effectively kills the majority of the bacteria, it's essential to follow up with handwashing using soap and water to physically remove the remnants of these disrupted bacteria from your hands.

How does soap work? Soap is made of surfactants. These surfactants, or soap's, superpowers come from tiny structures called micelles. Think of micelles as tiny bags (vesicles) made by the soap's special ingredients. 

Now, these micelles are like magnets for dirt, bacteria, and chemicals on your hands. They have one end that loves water (called hydrophilic) and another end that hates water but loves grabbing onto dirt and germs (called hydrophobic). So when you wash your hands with soap and water, these micelles swoop in, grab onto all the yucky stuff, and then get washed away with the water.

That's why using soap is so important! It doesn't just zap away germs, it actually grabs them and takes them away, leaving your hands clean and safe. So next time you're washing up, remember, soap is the real superhero fighting off those germs!

Did you know? Studies have shown that hand washing is most effective when using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. It was even proven that water temperature is a significant factor when washing your hands. However, washing with cold water and soap is still the second-best procedure. 

So, what's the takeaway? Simple: handwashing is a superpower against germs! Whether you're facing off with bacteria in the lab or navigating everyday life, keeping your hands clean is key to staying healthy and preventing the spread of illness.

But sometimes it's easy to forget or rush through the handwashing routine. That's where our Handwash-it Kit comes in! It's not just about washing your hands; it's about doing it right. With our kit, you can test your skills, making sure you're scrubbing for the recommended 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

Remember, handwashing isn't just about staying safe during a pandemic (though that's important too!), it's a habit that can protect you year-round. So why not give our Handwash-it Kit a try? It's a fun way to level up your hand hygiene game and keep those pesky germs at bay!