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Researchers find that viruses may permeate wet latex gloves

Section: National News

Latex gloves, routinely worn by surgeons and other health care workers to guard against infection, may allow dangerous viruses to permeate when wet, research has found.

Such particles as HIV or hepatitis B viruses can penetrate within 15 minutes a wet latex glove that has no holes, said study co-author Kevin Kelly, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa.

In the study, "The Relationship Between Latex, Allergies, Hydration and Compromised Barriers in Surgical Gloves," researchers conducted electrical-conductivity tests on 12 gloves of six different brand names. They found that the "boggy," expanding and thickening feelings commonly felt by wearers are caused by moisture permeating the latex.

"If you have an occlusive glove on your hand, you sweat," Kelly said. "Over time, different gloves that hydrate will actually carry virus through."

Kelly said additional studies are under way to confirm the findings and their significance.

Even though the likelihood of becoming infected through a wet latex glove is infinitesimal, he suggested that surgeons who wear gloves for long periods of time consider double-gloving.

"We don't know the fact that a viral-sized particle can go through a glove means that a person who is wearing that glove is actually at risk of getting infected," he said.

Kelly said technology soon will let users check the protection they are receiving from gloves while they are wearing them.

"I foresee a day that in every operating room every glove is electronically monitored while you're doing work," he said. "You will reach a point where the hydration status of the glove will reach a level where we know that viral penetration reaches the point of higher risk."

Kelly discussed his findings March 15 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in New Orleans. A study abstract (abstract no. 575) was in a supplement included with the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Copyright 1996 by American Hospital Publishing Inc.
Green, Jeffrey, Researchers find that viruses may permeate wet latex gloves.., Vol. 32, AHA News, 03-25-1996, pp 4.

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