Faecal indicator bacteria on the hands and the effectiveness of hand-washing in Zimbabwe

J Trop Med Hyg. 1991 Oct;94(5):358-63.


Two aspects of hand-washing were explored in this study. Mothers and children from 80 families in Zimbabwe were asked to wash their hands in the traditional manner in sterile water. Mothers were asked to answere a socio-economic questionnaire. By using the questionnaire and observations in conjunction with the microbiological data from hand-washing, factors were identified which contributed to high counts on the hands. These were: high relative humidity, living on a commercial farm, and having an infant in the family. Mothers and children 1-5 years of age had higher counts than children of 6-12 years. People recently involved in outdoor physical activities such as farming had higher counts than those involved in other activities. The traditional hand-washing method was also compared with two other hand-washing methods: hand-washing using soap and hand-washing using a container known as the mukombe. Hand-washing with soap was the most effective method closely followed by hand-washing using the mukombe. The least effective method was traditional hand-washing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Enterobacteriaceae / growth & development*
  • Enterococcus / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Hand / microbiology*
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Infant
  • Mothers
  • Rural Population
  • Soaps
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population
  • Zimbabwe


  • Soaps