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The hands are the parts of the human body that are in most contact with the outside world. People use their hands for a variety of activities. It is extremely easy to come in contact with different microbes and to transfer them to other objects and maybe even people and pets.
Fingernails are actually dead cells made of the same stuff as our hair, a protein called keratin. Brushless hand washing is the standard. However, there are limitations.
The use of a nail brush in select situations is often essential for effective cleaning.
Fingernails harbor the most bacteria found on the human hands.
These bacteria are extremely easy to transfer and may reside on a person’s hand when he/she touches money, food, doorknobs, hair and countless other things. Some transient bacteria may stay on the human hands from minutes to hours or even months.
Did you know when you scratch yourself with your nails you can actually cause infections?
"Let's just say you had an itch and you scratched a little bit too hard and you abraded your skin, germs living under your fingernail would get under your skin barrier and cause infection to yourself and, obviously, we have the same potential to transmit germs to other people," says Dr David Katz of Yale University.
Artificial fingernails harbor a greater number of pathogens than natural nails. Enhancements of artificial fingernails contribute to the changes in nails that lead to an increase of colonization and transmission of pathogens.
Microbe Genera Found Underneath the Fingernails
The main mechanism through which microbes interact with each other under the fingernails is through a biofilm. Biofilms are communities of surface attaching microbes.
Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nail which causes 50% of all nail diseases and affects 18% of the general population. Onychomycosis have been found in patients who use artificial nails.
Nails should be kept clean, short, and should not extend past the fingertips. The subungual region is the site of the majority of the bacteria on the human hands. The growth of bacteria with the nails causes unhealthy, thin, and brittle nails.
Fingernail factoids: Fingernails grow faster on pregnant women, they also grow quicker when you're younger, grow faster on your more active hand and they grow more in summer than winter.
Proper use of a nailbrush with a cleanser applied with friction is an important factor in removing biofilms and microorganisms, reducing the chances of acquiring or transferring pathologies.
Rachelle Williams is a food safety and hygiene consultant who works with food businesses to make sure they meet the food standards code.
"When you're washing your hands you need to make sure you're getting under the fingernails and particularly the tips. If someone has long fingernails they must keep them clean. The Food Standards Code does require certain things with fingernails and they include: you're not allowed to have attachments, so you're not allowed to have those acrylic sort of nails; you're not allowed to wear fingernail polish, again it can be a contamination source; and I know that there's fingernails out there that you can put studs on — they would be a definite no. So if you're going to have long finger nails, keep them clean and scrub them down. But besides that I would recommend in food, personal services businesses and at home not having long fingernails," she says.