Picking or rubbing your nose ‘can spread pneumonia-causing bacteria’

By Jessica B

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EN Fitness & Wellbeing Pneumonia-causing bacteria can be spread by nose picking and rubbing, scientists claim.
Pneumococcus, the bacteria that can cause pneumonia or inflammation of tissue in one or both lungs, is known to be spread through the inhalation of airborne droplets containing the bacteria, such as in coughs or sneezes.
Now, researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Royal Liverpool Hospital have found that transmission can also occur via contact between the nose and the hands after exposure to pneumococcus bacteria.
“Our current understanding of the transmission of pneumococcus is poor, so we wanted to look at how it may be spread in the community,” said lead researcher Dr. Victoria Connor in a statement. “Having a clearer understanding of how the bacteria is spread will allow for better advice on how transmission can be reduced, so that there is greater prevention of pneumococcal infections.”
Study results showed that bacteria can spread at the same rate whether it is dry or wet, and also indicated that the same amount of transmission occurred when the participants poked or picked their nose as when they rubbed their nose with the back of their hand.
Accordingly, the academics suggest that ensuring good hand hygiene and keeping toys clean could help to protect young children from catching and spreading the bacteria on to other children and their elderly relatives, who may be more susceptible to infection.
“It might not be realistic to get children to stop picking, poking and rubbing their noses, and presence of the bacteria can sometimes boost the immune system of children and can reduce their chances of carrying it again later in life, so it is unclear if completely reducing the spread of pneumococcus in children is the best thing,” added Dr. Connor. “But for parents, as this research shows that hands are likely to spread pneumococcus, this may be important when children are in contact with elderly relatives or relatives with reduced immune systems. In these situations, ensuring good hand hygiene and cleaning of toys or surfaces would likely reduce transmission, and reduce the risk of developing pneumococcal infection such as pneumonia.”
Full study results have been published in the European Respiratory Journal.

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