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Hand gels falter

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9:08am, June 7, 2006

From Orlando, Fla., at the American Society for Microbiology meeting

Alcohol-based gels may not effectively eliminate from people's hands a type of virus that causes millions of cases of diarrhea worldwide each year, say researchers.

Such hand sanitizers are rising in popularity because of their convenience, says Christine Moe of Emory University in Atlanta. Unlike washing with soap and water, using these gels doesn't require rinsing or drying one's hands.

Because the gels have been shown to kill a wide variety of bacteria and viruses, Moe adds, they're becoming a common fixture in places where frequent hand washing is necessary. Until now, however, researchers hadn't tested the effectiveness of such sanitizers against noroviruses, a family of viruses that causes gastrointestinal infections and has become notorious for spreading among passengers on cruise ships.

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