Antiseptic skin cleansers may prevent rhinovirus transmission


CHICAGO (Reuters Health) – While there is no cure for the common cold, antiseptic skin cleansers that contain salicylic acid or pyroglutamic acid may help prevent hand-to-hand transmission of rhinovirus.

These types of cleansers are virucidal on contact and demonstrate anti-rhinovirus activity that can persist for several hours after application, according to study findings presented here Monday at the 41st Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Dr. Ronald B. Turner, from the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston, and colleagues performed two studies to investigate the efficacy of antiseptic skin cleansers in interrupting the transmission of rhinovirus infections.

In both studies, the hands of volunteers were challenged with rhinovirus after being washed with a skin cleanser. The subjects were then instructed to make intentional conjunctiva and nasal mucosa contact with one hand.

In the first study, the hands of 85 subjects were challenged with rhinovirus 15 minutes after being washed with a salicylic acid, pyroglutamic acid, or control solution. Significantly fewer positive hand cultures were noted among salicylic acid-treated subjects than among control subjects. Both treatment groups had a significantly lower rhinovirus infection rate than the control group, the researchers note.

In the second study, the researchers determined the anti-rhinovirus activity of a pyroglutamic acid cleanser up to 3 hours after washing. At all time points up to 3 hours, pyroglutamic acid-treated subjects had significantly fewer positive hand cultures than control subjects. The proportion of subjects who became infected, however, did not differ significantly between the groups.

"This is the first time that the virucidal activity of these compounds has been evaluated," Dr. Turner told Reuters Health. "Prior studies have only examined the antibacterial effects," he added. "In fact, if I remember correctly, pyroglutamic acid is actually marketed as a moisturizer; it wasn't even considered to be an antimicrobial agent," he said.

"Our studies indicate that these compounds have residual anti-rhinovirus activity that extends, in some cases, up to 3 hours after application," Dr. Turner stated. "Some commercially available skin cleansers already contain these compounds," he pointed out.

However, he warns that "the current findings really don't prove anything in the natural setting." Further studies are needed "to prove that these agents can actually prevent transmission of rhinovirus," he added.

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