Simple handwashing — even without soap — is more effective than many hand disinfectants for killing influenza A virus (IAV) in typical clinical situations, new data show.
The researchers say the key factor that determines the effectiveness of ethanol-based disinfectants (EBDs) is whether there is wet mucus surrounding the virus. Wet mucus prevents the disinfectant from reaching the virus, which means the virus remained active after 120 seconds of EBD exposure.
By contrast, washing hands under plain water for 30 seconds inactivated the virus, regardless of whether it was initially surrounded by wet or dry mucus.
“The physical properties of mucus protect the virus from inactivation,” lead researcher Ryohei Hirose, PhD, MD, a physician and molecular gastroenterologist at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan, said in a news release. “Until the mucus has completely dried, infectious IAV can remain on the hands and fingers, even after appropriate antiseptic hand rubbing.”