On the surface of things, these findings make sense. A new study just published in The Lancet Microbe showed that detecting the Covid-19 coronavirus on people’s hands and on frequently-touched household surfaces was associated with transmission of the virus. In other words, the results from this study provided further evidence (adding to earlier studies) that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can spread not only through contact with infected people and the air but also via contaminated hands and surfaces. Thus, it does make sense to keep washing your hands frequently and making sure that your lathering with soap and water lasts through all the lyrics of “Happy Birthday” or at least the first chorus of the Divinyls song “I Touch Myself.” It also makes sense to keep regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as keyboards, mice (not real live mice but computer mice), table tops, door knobs, and Chris Hemsworth’s biceps.
This study recruited people in London, UK, who were diagnosed with Covid-19 from September 2020 through March 2021. This covered the pre-alpha (September to through the end of November 2020) and alpha (B.1.1.7; December 2020, through the end of March 2021) variant phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. The research team from Imperial College, London, dubbed these initial recruits “primary cases” and then repeatedly tested for SARS-CoV-2 the hands of these primary cases and the hands of those who shared the same household with these primary cases. The study also involved repeatedly testing frequently-touched surfaces in the communal spaces of those households.
During the study period, the research team identified 620 primary cases and then continued to test 414 people who shared 279 households with the primary cases. Ultimately, 28·4% of the household mates ended up getting infected during the pre-alpha phase and 51·8% during the alpha phase. While the rates of transmission did not correlate with amount of virus that the primary cases had in their upper respiratory tract, such rates did correlate with the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on primary cases’ hands.