The Health Council of the Netherlands said in 2016: hand gels do more harm than good.
Ever since the first corona patients, hand gels have been selling out almost everywhere and need to be restocked straight away. However, according to microbiologist Jasper Buikx from ARTIS Micropia (at the Amsterdam Zoo), this transparent product is not a solution to the virus. The large-scale use of antimicrobial agents is controversial. Microbiologists warn of the risk of the build-up of resistance, as is the case with the large-scale use of antibiotics. Stop using hand gels.
Preferably wash your hands with soap”
Microbiologist Jasper Buikx from Artis Microbia.
Artis Micropia: The microbe museum in Amsterdam.
Micropia is the world’s only museum where the invisible world of microorganisms is made visible.
Shake each other’s hand. You’ll be better off doing that.
Disinfecting hands does more harm than good. What are the similarities between the hands of an astronaut, hairdresser, mayor and acrobat? Microbes!
All hands are crawling with them. And if it’s your birthday, shake each other’s hands. This is good for your social contacts, but also for your microbes. You exchange them, you receive more and they become more diverse that way.
More than 150 strains of bacteria, numerous viruses (Covid-19) and 30 strains of fungi coexist on your hands. In other words, an entire ecosystem. The exact composition of these strains is unique to every single person. In fact, there are even different sorts living on your left and right hands. A microbial fingerprint, so to speak.
Simply by shaking hands, your hand exchanges microbes. Disease-causing germs don’t stand a chance that way. Some microbes become part of your own ‘hand microbiome’ and create more diversity as a result. And that diversity on your skin is extremely important. Your skin microbes block microbes from the outside. So they are your first line of defence and keep your skin healthy. The more varieties your skin has, the better.
A teeming mass of microorganisms is crawling over your body as we speak. They provide immunity.
Your hands are covered with 150 strains of bacteria and 30 strains of fungi. Some microbes are so small that they fit a million times onto the tip of a needle, yet they are indispensable for your immune system.
,”In addition to bacteria and fungi, microbes also encompass yeasts, viruses, micro-animals and micro-algae”,
says Jasper Buikx, microbiologist at Artis Micropia, the Amsterdam museum where the invisible world of microorganisms is researched and presented.
“Microorganisms keep our skin supple, maintain moisture levels and, most importantly, provide the first line of defence against bacteria and viruses from the outside world.”
Do not compromise on hygiene, say no to hand gel, say no to corona, say yes to occasionally washing your hands with or without soap
Everyone has a unique mixture of microbes. It is more personal than a fingerprint. “Even the organisms on your left hand are different from those on your right hand”, the researcher says. What happens when you shake someone’s hand? Buikx: “Then you exchange microbes. That’s okay, it’s an enrichment. Besides that, your body’s own microorganisms recognise which viruses, bacteria and other microbes don’t belong on your body. Your microbes keep strangers out by colonising the available spaces, claiming food sources and even producing antibodies.”
“Diversity will save us, not the fear of microbes”
Hand gels with a pump or without a pump will not save us from a virus and also not from Corona virus.
According to microbiologist Dr. Buikx, it is therefore also unnecessary to use disinfectant gel under normal circumstances. As far the coronavirus is concerned, the effect of hand gel seems to be limited well. “These kinds of products do not ‘save’ us from a virus such as corona. Some disinfectant products contain antibacterial properties, but we are dealing with a virus here. We do not need these kinds of products thanks to our own microbiome and immune system. They can even be harmful. The antibacterial properties in the gels also harm our body’s own protective bacteria. Apart from that, when it comes to disease-causing germs as well as the body’s own bacteria, intensive use of an antibacterial gel can lead to resistance to these types of substances. Then the step to antibiotic resistance is a small one.”
“We need to trust our own microbiome immune system a little more and deal with microbes in a more mature way.” There is no need to constantly disinfect the body and the environment – like in the home. ‘’
Water and soap are still key, do not buy hand gels
Covid-19 doesn’t like water and a little soap. The microbiologist Buickx compares our hands to the Rocky Mountains. “If you look at the skin on your hands at close range, it looks like a high mountain range with peaks and valleys. If you touch something or someone, the new microbes end up on the top of such a ‘mountain’. Your body’s own microbes are safely tucked away in the valleys. When you wash your hands, the high-lying microbes disappear first. These are right away the microbes you want to get rid of. No disinfectant gel is needed to remove them. This can also be done with water and, if necessary, a little bit of ordinary soap.”
Covid-19: Replace disinfectant hand gels with soap, the World Health Organisation states.
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging everyone to wash their hands regularly. And not to use disinfectant hand gels. Pathogens such as corona (Covid-19) are more likely to occur if hand gels are used excessively.