Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods

J Appl Microbiol. 2016 Feb;120(2):478-86. doi: 10.1111/jam.13014.


Aims: To use a MS2 bacteriophage model to compare three hand-drying methods, paper towels (PT), a warm air dryer (WAD) and a jet air dryer (JAD), for their potential to disperse viruses and contaminate the immediate environment during use.

Methods and results: Participants washed their gloved hands with a suspension of MS2 bacteriophage and hands were dried with one of the three hand-drying devices. The quantity of MS2 present in the areas around each device was determined using a plaque assay. Samples were collected from plates containing the indicator strain, placed at varying heights and distances and also from the air. Over a height range of 0·15-1·65 m, the JAD dispersed an average of >60 and >1300-fold more plaque-forming units (PFU) compared to the WAD and PT (P < 0·0001), respectively. The JAD dispersed an average of >20 and >190-fold more PFU in total compared to WAD and PT at all distances tested up to 3 m (P < 0·01) respectively. Air samples collected around each device 15 min after use indicated that the JAD dispersed an average of >50 and >100-fold more PFU compared to the WAD and PT (P < 0·001), respectively.

Conclusions: Use of the JAD lead to significantly greater and further dispersal of MS2 bacteriophage from artificially contaminated hands when compared to the WAD and PT.

Significance and impact of study: The choice of hand-drying device should be considered carefully in areas where infection prevention concerns are paramount, such as healthcare settings and the food industry.

Keywords: MS2 bacteriophage; aerosolization; cross-contamination; dispersal; hand drying; hand hygiene; virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hand / virology*
  • Hand Disinfection / instrumentation
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Levivirus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Paper