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What’s Lurking Under Your Fingernails?
In the spring of 1997, I spent a wonderful day with Dr. Omar Amin in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Amin is one of the most respected and sought-after parasitologists in the world and runs the Parasitology Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona.
He gave me a copy of his book ‘Understanding Parasites’ in which there is a sentence that always sticks in my mind: “A recent audit of an expensive restaurant in Los Angeles showed that 100% of all employees (not servers only) has something under their nails”.
Infection and disease (especially parasites) generally go together. With our cities supplying food from large areas of the world, this produces a higher incidence of communicable diseases, especially if these local foods are not cooked or even raw: Dutch herring, steak tartar, ceviche, sashimi, sushi for example. The tapeworm is high on the list of residents’ in these foods as is the Anisakid Worm.
A food handler with poor personal hygiene will increase the exposure and risk of spreading microorganisms. Years ago kitchen workers wore gloves and aprons when handling food. They don’t seem to do this anymore although regular hand washing habits may be mandatory nowadays.
University of Gondar, Ethiopia
In 2003, 127 food handlers working in the canteens of the University of Gondar and the Teachers Training School there underwent a fingernail test. These cafes were chosen because the over-supply of foods is a possible source of transmitted infections. Fingernail contents of both hands and stool specimens were collected from all 127 food handlers. In addition to fecal matter under the fingernails, the following were found:
– Coagulase-negative staphylococci (41.7%) by Staphylococcus aureus (16.5%), Klebisella species (5.5%), Escherichia coli (3.1%), Serratia species (1.58%), Citrobacter species (0.8%), and Enterobacter species (0.8 ). %).
– Shigella species were isolated from stool samples of four food handlers (3.1%). None of the food handlers were positive for Salmonella species and Shigella species in respect of their fingernail contents.
Thankfully, no intestinal parasites were found from the fingernail contents, but intestinal parasites were found in their feces:
– Ascaris lumbricoides (18.11%), Strongyloides stercoralis (5.5%) Entamoeba histolytica/dispar (1.6%), Trichuris trichiura (1.6%), hookworm species (0.8%), Gardia lamblia (0.8%), and Schistosoma mansoni (0.8%) ). ); 1.6% of the study subjects were positive for each of A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia lamblia.
It is clear from this and many other studies that food handlers are a potential source of infections. Not just food handlers. To give you an idea of where and how pollution occurs, here are two lists.
The 10 ‘dirtiest’ jobs:
1. Teacher / day care worker
2. Cashier (bank, post office, supermarket, fast food etc.)
4. Animal control officer
5. Janitor, plumber
6. Computer Repair (Using keyboard/mouse dirt)
7. Doctor or nurse
8. Laboratory scientist
9. Garbage Collector
10. Meat Packer
Here are some of the dirtiest places you’ll touch in your day:
1. Take the supermarket trolley
2. Office keyboard (not yours) and mouse
3. Public key or source handling office
4. Door handle – toilet, refrigerator and microwave in office and home
5. Vending machine keys
6. The kitchen sink in your home
7. Your toothbrush, if you are near a flushed toilet (always close the toilet lid!) and a toothbrush holder
8. TV remote control (hotels and homes)
9. Anywhere around pets (including litter boxes)
10. Escalator handrails
11. Buttons on ATM’s, pick up, video game controller
12. Fuel pumps
13. Car steering wheels, especially with multiple drivers
The next time you go out for a drink, think before you dip your fingers into a bowl of peanuts on the stick. Next to the fruits will be fecal matter and the rest of the urine. Then, of course, there’s lemon juice in your drink:
“I worked in restaurants for many years and this is what I saw. The lemons and limes that were delivered and put in the walk-in pantry. When the waiter needed a hand full of them they would go take them by putting them in your cup. We will cut them on a board and put them in a cup and put it on the alcohol and we will pour them on the alcohol, Customer # 1 will order a drink and pay for the alcohol and we will collect the money into the register. Customer #2 soda water with a lemon and an atare will go into an ice cube and fill the cup, he takes a lemon and squeezes the lime into the drink, but at no time does the water touch the fruit or his money, this everyday Cash, ice cream and fruit. Oh, and the occasional trip to the john.”
Men generally have more germs under their fingernails than women but more germs are found under artificial nails than under real ones.
There is certainly hope…
Viruses and bacteria are an important part of our lives. There are billions of them in and around us. A strong, healthy immune system will take care of most everyday threats picked up from a dirty supermarket trolley or a pet in the house but being aware of this is also valuable.
Some Nail Facts:
– onychopathy is the study of finger and toe nails.
— Fingernails are mainly dead cells made of a protein called keratin – the same substance as our hair. We’d be fine without them but they’re great at helping us do mundane things like keeping things organized, texting and cheering each other on. They also absorb some of the pressure that the tip of the finger bone will have to bear.
– Fingernails grow faster when you are young, faster on active hands and more in summer than in winter. They also grow faster on pregnant women.
– Dry nails? Just drink more water.
On a final health note…
Try not to drink directly from aluminum cans. If you buy canned drinks and bring them home, wash the tops as they can carry a virus called Leptospirosis.
There is a lot of fear on the internet about people dying from drinking out of unwashed cans. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that but if there is truth here, it would be because the sufferer has such a weakened immune system, that offers little if any resistance to bacteria.
Tests have shown that some aluminum cans carry infected rat urine that contains Leptospira i. The cans are often stored in rat-infested warehouses and delivered directly to retail stores without detection! Just so you know.
Let’s keep exposure to a minimum.
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