Day 267, part 2 – An even easier way

We have – repeatedly – been through the ways that you can avoid infection and avoid infecting others with Covid-19, but there always seems to be some good reason silly excuse which means that you can’t follow through and actually do them, doesn’t there?

Wash your hands regularly

But my hands get so dry.
I have very sensitive skin, see? I get it from my mother’s side.

Wear a mask

It’s so hard to breath through a mask though, isn’t it?
And the rebreathing of all the carbon monoxide. So dangerous. So very dangerous.

Maintain a decent social distance

I’m just, like, a really tactile person. Like, I always have been.
I literally just need to hug everyone. I get it from my mother’s side.

Avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces

Look, sure, my favourite bar is very small and has no windows.
But there are Happy Hour specials on vodka cocktails all this week!

I know, I know. It’s really not easy to alter your behaviour in order to protect other people.

But here’s a great plan and you don’t actually have to do anything at all. Quite literally.

If you are feeling unwell, just stay at home. 

This one has been on all the posters and the emails and everything else that you have seen and been sent, but it doesn’t make the headline advice because it’s clearly just so obvious.

Not rocket surgery.

Sadly, with hindsight, it seems that assumption might have been something of a misjudgement on our part. [sigh]

And so from now on, can we add this seemingly most straightforward of advice to the short list above?

Thanks so much.

Dirty Dogs

As a microbiologist, I’m very much against the beagle being anywhere near my family licking my face.
I don’t allow it. You simply don’t know where that tongue has just been.

And so that’s just another of the many, many reasons that the above situation could (thankfully) never occur Chez 6000

And before you ask further household/canine hygiene based questions:

1. Lots and lots of hand-washing.
2. No. Not in the bedrooms.
3. No. There’s no point in having the 5-second rule, because:
a) It’s based on crappy science, and
b) The beagle eats anything that gets dropped on the floor within 5 seconds anyway.
4. No. Of course I can’t reach them. It’s just a cartoon. Jesus.

All good? Great. Happy to have been of assistance.

Air kiss your dog

Do you have a dog? Of course you do. Or perhaps you don’t.
Either way, there’s good evidence that allowing your dog to lick you (this is apparently the dog version of a kiss) could lead to all sorts of nasty stuff happening to you.

It may seem like a harmless display of affection, but allowing your pet to ‘kiss’ you could be dangerous – or even fatal.

So states the Guardian in their article, entitled:

Should I let my dog lick my face?

And the easy answer seems to be “no”, unless you want to play with Clostridium spp, E.coli and Campylobacter spp. Or Pasteurella multocida, a regular part of your dog’s normal mouth flora, which was:

… blamed for meningitis in 42 infants in France under the age of four between 2001 and 2011. Nearly half the babies were newborn, and most were infected as a result of dogs or cats licking them. Four died.

Or Haemophilus aphrophilus, responsible for causing brain abscesses and inflammation of the heart.

Or Dipylidium caninum – the double-pored dog tapeworm, the human excretion of which is always a favourite at parties. (Depending on which sort of parties you go to.)

And never forget the virtually unculturable (it’s really tough to grow it in a lab) Capnocytophaga canimorsus responsible for nearly doing for a 70-year-old woman in London earlier this year.

Statistically, you are extremely unlikely to get an horrific infection from allowing your dog (or cat – they’re hardly innocent in all this microbiological mayhem) lick your face. However, you are even less likely to get an horrific infection if you don’t allow your dog (or cat) to lick your face.

I know which route I’ll be taking. And I don’t even have a cat.

Beards in the lab

Fashion is cyclical. Beards are back in, after 35+ clean-shaven years.

I don’t wear one myself, but I am aware of some individuals that do. And some of them work in laboratories. Eww.

Why eww? Because you’ll surely remember the 1967 research of Barbeito et al. entitled:

Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men


Allow me to reacquaint you with their work:

An investigation was conducted to evaluate the hypothesis that a bearded man subjects his family and friends to risk of infection if his beard is contaminated by infectious microorganisms while he is working in a microbiological laboratory.

It’s a serious thing, and it’s why we wear lab coats and gloves (and sometimes more PPE) when we’re working in the lab. It’s why we wash our hands thoroughly each time we leave the room. And it’s not just to protect ourselves from contaminated and/or infection. No-one wants to wander out of the lab and give spread germs, disease and infection to everyone they meet. (Although this does depend on who they meet, I guess.)

So we’re all covered and washed, but… but what about the guy over there with his beard? Well, Barbeito et al.’s  methods to investigate whether bearded men could carry germs out of the lab were pretty cool:

They sprayed some non-pathogenic (non-disease causing) bacteria into real beards on real men and sampled the beard at 30 minutes and 6 hours)

The 30-min interval was selected to represent two work situations: (i) the time necessary for a man to complete a laboratory operation in a zealous attempt to avoid loss of an experimental series despite a known accidental contamination of his beard before he rejoined his associates with an unwashed beard, and (ii) the time required for an immediate shower and change of clothing, after an accident that contaminated the beard and the before association with fellow employees or family.
The 6-hr interval was selected to represent the time between an unrecognized contamination of the beard and family contact with the unwashed beard.

“Sorry dear, I’ve brought some work home this evening.”

Then they sprayed Botox and rubbed infected chickens against a beard on a mannequin. Seriously.

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-21-104950-am-bmpYeah, that image will stick with me as well. Apologies for that.

Clean-shaven men (and presumably, clean-shaven mannequins) were used as controls, just to see that any significant results were genuinely beard-related.


Yes. Beards are dirty and dangerous and yucky and are (now) full of Serratia marcescens and Bacillus subtilis var. niger and Newcastle disease virus and Clostridium botulinum toxin, type A:

The experiments showed that beards retained microorganisms and toxin despite washing with soap and water. Although washing reduced the amount of virus or toxin, a sufficient amount remained to produce disease upon contact with a suitable host.

Do you have a beard? Do you work or live with someone who has a beard?

This experiment suggests that even if they don’t work in a lab, and even if they do wash their beard, it’s still horribly full of nasty bacteria and cornflakes* and stuff. You will might get an infection.

Consider yourself warned. And go get a shave.


* possibly, anyway.