Exploring the potential of antimicrobial hand hygiene products in reducing the infectious burden in low-income countries: An integrative review

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The purpose of this review was to understand whether adding antimicrobial agents to hand hygiene products could increase the health benefits of handwashing with plain soap (HWWS) in low-income settings.


A review of experimental studies comparing the effects of HWWS with antimicrobial soap and waterless hand sanitizer on health and hand contamination in naturalistic conditions was conducted. In addition, an analysis was completed of the evidence from laboratory studies examining the factors that may affect the impact of antimicrobial soap, taking into account the conditions in low-income settings.


The review found no evidence for a superior effect of antimicrobial products compared with HWWS on disease incidence and limited evidence for an effect on hand contamination under naturalistic conditions. An analysis of the effectiveness of antimicrobial soap in laboratory settings suggested that it was only more effective than HWWS when handwashing frequency, duration, and product concentrations were above levels that could be expected in low-income settings.


The limited available evidence suggests that under naturalistic conditions, antimicrobial products are no more effective than HWWS in removing pathogens from hands. Without significant improvement in efficacy, antimicrobial products are unlikely to produce greater health gains than HWWS in low-income settings.

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