Yes, Virginia, your soap and dispenser are not actually clean #shocking #microBEnet

Figure 1 from
Figure 1 from

A new paper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology is not surprisingly getting a bunch of press “Bacterial Hand Contamination and Transfer after Use of Contaminated Bulk-Soap-Refillable Dispensers” by Zapka et al.  I note the article is freely available online.

Some of the news stories about this include:


The main point of the paper is basically that they can find all sorts of bacteria living in/on liquid soap dispensers.  And that some of these bacteria could be pathogenic.  Not really a big surprise.  Not sure if it is a major health related issue as they do not show any epidemiological data that indicates this is a major problem.  But it is probably good to point out to people that washing your hands only helps if what you wash with doesn’t have anything nasty on it.

One thing to note that not all the stories mention.  The study was done in part by people that work at “GOJO Industries” a company I had never heard of until now.  Google however clears things up.  GOJO is the maker of Purell.  Not that that indicates any bias in the study, but it would be better for more Full Disclosure about this – and I think probably should have been included as a statement in the article itself.

A bit of a side note, the article is actually labelled as “Open Access”. I think ASM must not know the meaning of that phrase.  Open Access refers also to being free from copyright and licensing restrictions, which this article is not.  It is nice that it is free of charge.  It is not quite Open Access though.

2 thoughts on “Yes, Virginia, your soap and dispenser are not actually clean #shocking #microBEnet

  1. GOJO does a lot of things besides Purell though. For example, they make (or at least distribute) these kinds of soap dispensers also. And the soap that goes into them. So I doubt there’s any distorting conflict of interest here due to GOJO’s involvement.

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.