Open Access Open Badges Research article

Male commuters in north and south England: risk factors for the presence of faecal bacteria on hands

Laura Dodrill, Wolf-Peter Schmidt, Emma Cobb, Peter Donachie, Valerie Curtis and Mícheál de Barra*

Author Affiliations

Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-31

Published: 12 January 2011



A previous study found that the prevalence of contamination with bacteria of faecal-origin on the hands of men differed across UK cities, with a general trend of increased contamination in northern cities. The aim of this study was to (1) confirm the north-south trend (2) identify causes for the trend.


Hand swabs from commuters (n = 308) at train stations in 4 cities were tested for the presence of faecal bacteria.


The prevalence of hand contamination with faecal bacteria was again higher in cities in the north compared to the south (5% in London, 4% in Birmingham, 10% in Liverpool and 19% in Newcastle). Contamination risk decreased with age and better personal hygiene (self-reported). Soil contact and shaking hands increased contamination with faecal bacteria. However, in multivariable analysis, none of these factors fully explained the variation in contamination across cities.


The study confirmed the north-south differences in faecal contamination of hands without finding a clear cause for the trend. Faecal contamination of hands was associated with personal hygiene indicators suggesting that microbiological testing may contribute to evaluating hygiene promotion campaigns.