Torben Holm Larsen
Prototypes of a wash cloth made from antimicrobial microfiber were more effective than soap and water at removing nonpathogenic Escherichia coli bacteria from hands, according to research published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
“This provides an initial positive indication that the SuperTowel could be a useful alternative way of hand cleaning in humanitarian crises or contexts where soap and water are limited,” Torben Holm Larsen, MSc, technical director and co-owner of Real Relief, the company that developed the towel, told Infectious Disease News.
Larsen and colleagues conducted two sets of laboratory tests with 16 volunteers in each set to test the efficacy of various prototypes of a hand towel-sized SuperTowel “treated with permanent antimicrobial bonding.”
Before testing, volunteers washed their hands in nonmedicated soap, thoroughly dried and immersed them for 5 seconds in a fluid containing nonpathogenic E. coli, then dried them again.
Control group participants washed their hands with nonmedicated liquid soap and water for 60 seconds, following WHO guidelines. They rinsed their hands with additional water for 15 seconds and air dried them for 3 minutes without the use of a machine.
Participants testing the SuperTowel rubbed their contaminated hands with the towel for 60 seconds after it was soaked in a bucket filled with water and continued with the rest of the WHO guidelines for proper handwashing, minus the use of soap and water.
At the end of the study, the researchers asked participants to complete a questionnaire to collect information on the perceived feasibility of the towel for hand-washing and to identify which prototype they preferred.
According to the researchers, three of the prototypes were more efficacious at removing E. coli than the soap and water methods.
The towels also “used less water than hand-washing with soap, were well-accepted and were considered preferable in communal settings,” the researchers wrote.
“We know that the SuperTowel is efficacious against most diarrhea-causing pathogens but plan to do further research to establish whether it could be effectively used in outbreaks” — for example, those caused by cholera, Larsen said. – by Bruce Thiel
Disclosures: Larsen reports that he has a patent pending for the SuperTowel, and is an employee of Real Relief. The remaining authors report no relevant financial disclosures.