Hand washing and the risk of infection

Does it matter if you use antibacterial soap?

First, the details.

  • Researchers from the University of Michigan searched 4 electronic databases.
  • The data from 30 studies were re-analyzed — meta-analysis.

And, the results.

  • Improvements in hand hygiene resulted a 31% reduction in gastrointestinal illness.
  • There was also a 21% reduction in respiratory illness.
  • The most beneficial intervention was hand-hygiene education combined with using nonantibacterial soap.
  • Using antibacterial soap showed little added benefit compared to nonantibacterial soap.

The bottom line?
Journal Watch comments, “The finding that plain soap works as well as antibacterial soaps is reassuring, given concerns that use of antibacterial soaps might actually promote emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

9/11/08 20:51 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.