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UK Northerners have dirtiest hands

Northerners have dirtier hands than southerners, according to new research.

People from the north of England were up to three times more likely to have hands contaminated with toilet bugs, the study found.

The scientists who carried out the test said they were astonished to find that hand hygiene worsened with every step taken further north.

Hands were cleanest in London, dirtier in Birmingham and Cardiff, and filthiest in Liverpool and Newcastle. The most likely explanation is that fewer northerners are washing their hands with soap after answering the call of nature, researchers said.

It was chiefly men who were responsible for the trend - but in Cardiff and London women were the dirtiest sex. In total, almost 30 per cent of people tested were carrying "faecal" bacteria.

People in Newcastle were up to three times more likely to have the bugs on their hands than those in London.

The proportion of people found to have contaminated hands was 13 per cent in London, 23 per cent in Cardiff, 24 per cent in Birmingham, 34 per cent in Liverpool and 44 per cent in Newcastle.

Among men, the figures increased sharply towards the north. In the same order, they were 6 per cent, 15 per cent, 21 per cent, 36 per cent, and 53 per cent.
Women did not show such a strong north - south divide. A total of 21 per cent of women tested in London had dirty hands, 29 per cent in Cardiff, 26 per cent in Birmingham, 31 per cent in Liverpool and 30 per cent in Newcastle.

But women in London were around three times more likely than men to have faecal bacteria on their hands.

Dr Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the study, said: "We were flabbergasted by the finding that so many people had faecal bugs on their hands.

"The figures were far higher than we had anticipated, and suggest that there is a real problem with people washing their hands in the UK.
"If any of these people had been suffering from diarrhoea disease, the potential for it to be passed around would be greatly increased by their failure to wash their hands after going to the toilet."

Dr Curtis's team took random swabs from the hands of 409 commuters waiting at bus stops near London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Cardiff Central, Liverpool Lime Street and Newcastle Central stations on weekday mornings.
When they were analysed, 113 of the samples were found to contain bacteria from faeces.