by Edna Milay
What’s the bacteria population on your right hand? Your left? Your spouse’s right hand? Your spouse’s left?
If you guessed that they were all approximately the same, you’re missing the latest “is this really important?” news to come from our medical research labs.
A recent study has found that hands have more bacteria on them then we ever imagined, and that there’s a greater diversity of bacteria then ever dreamed.
University of Colorado scientists tested 105 student hands and found that only 5% of the bacteria strains were on every hand. That means that most of the bacteria on your hand isn’t on your friends – and vice versa.
Even more interesting, most of the bacteria on your right hand isn’t the same as what’s on your left. Only about 17% are the same.
Women lead the field in bacteria diversity. They have a far greater variety of bacteria on their hands then men, which makes some men suddenly leery of hand-holding.
But most of the bacteria isn’t dangerous, and hand-washing, at least the way students wash their hands, doesn’t help. There was about as much bacteria on the hands after washing as before.
Is that bad? Is that good? Probably it doesn’t matter. Keep your hands clean, of course, and celebrate the diversity that is skin deep.

25. November 2008 by Ruth Folger Weiss
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