Spoiler alert: If the presence of all those alcohol-based hand sanitizers makes you feel safe from disease, skip this blog post.
The sanitizers – Purell, Germ-X and the like – started popping up everywhere last year following the outbreak of the H1N1 “swine flu” virus. But new research out of the University of Virginia finds that they are of no particular use in warding off the flu. They also failed to ward off rhinovirus, a major cause of the common cold.
The researchers, led by Dr. Ronald B. Turner, tested the sanitizers in real-world conditions. They asked 116 volunteers to carry around a sanitizer with “enhanced antiviral activity” and use it every three hours while they were awake. Another group of 96 volunteers followed their usual routines.
Researchers tracked them for 10 weeks, collecting specimens once a week to test for flu and rhinovirus. Additional samples were taken whenever a study participant complained of cold or flu-like symptoms.