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March 16, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Researchers find downside to hand washes

WATCH out: washing your hands frequently may have a downside.

Scientists have discovered that a type of bacteria widely existing on the surface of peoples' skin plays an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt. Frequent hand washing may kill this anti-inflammatory bacteria, staphylococcus.

They found that mice lacking exposure to the germ on their skin are more likely to get inflammation than other mice.

The research by East China Normal University and University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has been published by Nature Medicine, a premier journal, ECNU officials said yesterday.

"It will help doctors devise new therapeutic approaches for inflammatory skin diseases," said Lai Yuping, one of the main researchers.

However, Ni Yuxing, Director of the Clinical Microbiology Department at Ruijin Hospital, challenged the research finding.

Ni said that while it's true that hand washing can affect certain types of immunity, it's "still the best way to get rid of bad germs and avoid the spread of disease."

That's particularly true for "hospital staff and others exposed to abundant germs in disease outbreak period such as the outburst of swine flu," Ni said.

In response, Lai said that his group will work to identify other anti-inflammatory germs and develop a hand-washing liquid that kills harmful germs without harming good ones.

In the research, scientists injected a molecule of the germ into a mouse's epidermis, the outer skin, to imitate the condition of human skin, because the germ is abundant on humans but rare on mice. After 24 hours, they took a sample of its skin.

They did the same with another mouse that had not been injected with the germ. The germ-infected mouse showed much less inflammation.


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