Are you sure your clean undies really are clean?

>> Monday, 21 November 2011

It’s amazing the things you discover from a chance meeting. 

Part of my role within the Company is making visits to specialist clinics around the country and talking with nurses and clinicians about problems they encounter on a daily basis in managing their patients. It is often very enlightening to see just how varied these issues are and just how these dedicated people cope in an NHS that is struggling to cope with so many diverse demands on its resources.

It was during one such meeting to a clinic in North London I was made aware of a fascinating issue which related to cultural background. A Health Professional of Caribbean origin was looking at our data on using DermaSilk Intimo underwear to help manage Thrush infections. When she discovered that the silk was bonded to an antifungal agent that remained active despite repeated washing, she commented that the briefs would go down particularly well with Caribbean ladies because their culture almost dictated that underwear was always washed by hand.

“It’s virtually impossible to eradicate Candida yeast in the underwear just by hand washing so these ladies re-infect themselves almost each time they put on clean briefs” she said. “If the antimicrobial on the DermaSilk briefs can kill off the yeast then they can hand wash them to their heart’s content”.

Well it got me thinking so I did a bit of digging around. There are many other cultures that have traditions such as in Thailand they separate underwear from other clothing to avoid any cross contamination. Seems logical, but it appears that even modern washing machines aren’t perfect either.

Professor Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona recently studied 50 homes in Tucson and 50 others in the Florida area, and found that coliform bacteria, an indicator of unsanitary conditions, including the presence of diarrhoea-causing E-coli, abound in many washing machines.

“Some even linger in the washing machine after you've washed your underwear,” he said. “We found that 60 percent of the washing machines had coliform bacteria. We just went in and swabbed the washing machines, and about 10 percent had E-coli in it.''  Gerba and his researchers discovered that 40 percent of sterile cloths washed in non-bleach laundry contained faecal bacteria.  “We found that when you mixed clothes and underwear in the wash, it contaminated all the laundry. In fact, there was enough left over to contaminate the next wash load,” he said.

Many people don’t think of clothing as being a source of re-infection, and get very concerned when the itching and soreness keeps coming back despite taking their medication. When it’s something as simple as the way we wash underwear that causes the problem, it’s reassuring that DermaSilk can still provide an effective solution whether we maintain our traditions or use modern methods.

I wonder what I’ll discover next week?


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