Evaluating the Efficacy of the Supertowel™ as a Handwashing Product: A Simulation of Real-World Use Conditions

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  • 1 Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom;
  • 2 Department of Microbiology, KET’s Scientific Research Centre, Mumbai, India;
  • 3 Real Relief ApS, Kolding, Denmark

The Supertowel is a fabric treated with a permanent antimicrobial bonding and has been designed as a soap alternative in emergency situations. The Supertowel has been shown to be as efficacious as handwashing with soap and water when tested under controlled laboratory conditions. It has also been shown to be a practical, acceptable, and desirable product among crisis-affected populations. The aim of this study was to test whether the Supertowel remains as efficacious when used under conditions which mimic real-world hand cleaning in challenging settings. Two rounds of laboratory tests, with 16 volunteers in each, were conducted to test the efficacy of the Supertowel when used for a shorter duration, when less wet, when used with contaminated water, when visibly dirty, and when dry. Volunteers pre-contaminated their hands with nonpathogenic Escherichia coli. Comparisons were made between hand cleaning with the Supertowel and the reference condition (normally handwashing with soap), using a crossover design. The Supertowel was marginally less efficacious than handwashing with soap when used for 15 seconds (P = 0.04) but as efficacious at 30 and 60 seconds durations. All the other Supertowel conditions were as efficient as their reference comparisons meaning that the Supertowel can effectively remove pathogens from hands when it is wet, damp, or completely dry, when it is used with contaminated water, when visibly dirty with mud and/or oil.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Belen Torondel, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Rm. 407, Keppel St., London WC1E 7HT, United Kingdom. E-mail: belen.torondel@lshtm.ac.uk

Disclosures: B. T., R. K., and S. W. declare no conflicts of interest. T. H. L. has a patent pending for the Supertowel. He is also a full-time employee of Real Relief, the private company which developed the Supertowel and which holds the IPR of the product.

Disclaimer: The contents are the responsibility of the authors of the paper and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Financial support: The research was made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (grant number: 720FDA19FA00007).

Authors’ addresses: Belen Torondel and Sian White, Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, E-mails: belen.torondel@lshtm.ac.uk and sian.white@lshtm.ac.uk. Rummana Khan, Department of Microbiology, KET’s Scientific Research Centre, Mumbai, India, E-mail: micro@kelkarresearchcentre.org. Torben Holm Larsen, Real Relief ApS, Kolding, Denmark, E-mail: thl@realreliefway.com.

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