Amid the ongoing COVID-19 scare, a new study, published on Friday, has revealed that researchers found disposable tissues are better at removing pathogens missed by ineffective washing when compared to jet dryers. Experts from Britain's University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust suggest that people should dry their hands with paper towels to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

This comes at a time when global health authorities have repeatedly highlighted the importance of washing hands with soap and water to protect against coronavirus. The doctors claim that contaminated hands are a major route for germ transmission that potentially spread pathogens to surfaces such as door handles or taps, eventually causing infection when people touch their faces.

Washing hands frequently is the best way to prevent the coronavirus infection
Washing hands frequently is the best way to prevent the coronavirus infection Twitter

Why should paper towels be preferred?

The latest study said that drying hands with a paper towel was more effective in removing microbes in case some are not removed even after washing hands. The authors, led by Ines Moura from the University of Leeds, said: "We believe that our results are relevant to the control of the novel coronavirus that is spreading at pace worldwide. Paper towels should be the preferred way to dry hands after washing and so reduce the risk of virus contamination and spread."

As part of an experiment, four volunteers got their hands contaminated using a bacteriophage, which is a virus that infects bacteria and is harmless to humans. But, they did not make an attempt to wash the microbes away.

The researchers said that the volunteers dried their hands either with paper towels or jet air dryer in a hospital toilet and went on to touch various surfaces including door handles, stair rails, phones and stethoscopes. When tested, the experts found that usage of both paper towels and jet dryers reduced the contamination on the hands of the volunteers.

Contamination rate is much higher

However, the researchers did admit that in case of 10 out of 11 surfaces sampled, the jet dryer method left "significantly greater environmental contamination" and microbes were found on all surfaces touched after using the jet dryer. They added that the rate of contamination was on average 10 times higher than after the use of paper towels.

The study authors have noted that the research was particularly relevant for hospital settings. While explaining their study, the researchers said that though the NHS and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the use of disposable towels after hand-washing, healthcare facilities in the UK were increasingly using jet dryers.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told AFP: "Clearly how much virus remains on peoples' hands after washing depends to a large extent on how efficiently people are at washing their own hands."

Hunter added: "If people do not wash their hands properly then other people may be at risk if standing close to someone using such a jet dryer. This study reinforces the need to wash hands properly so as much virus is removed as possible before drying."

According to reports, the study was supposed to be presented at the European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Paris this month. But, now the event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis that has spread across the world, killing tens of thousands.