Microbiology Expert Discusses Gloves as COVID-19 Protection

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A close-up of hands putting on latex gloves

(PIxabay)

With Canadian public health officials now advising against wearing gloves to protect against COVID-19, the University of Guelph has an expert who can offer comment.

Prof. Keith Warriner is a food microbiologist in U of G’s Department of Food Science. He researches food-borne pathogens, food-borne hazards detection technologies and intervention technologies.

The problem with gloves, he said, is they can actually increase the risk of spreading viruses like the coronavirus if they are used as a substitute for handwashing.

“Wearing gloves can give you a false sense of security and make one less conscious of the need to handle items less, so they could potentially spread the virus more,” he said.

Even with gloves, it’s possible to touch a recently contaminated surface and then touch one’s mouth, nose or eyes and possibly become infected.

Prof. Keith Warriner

Gloves are worn in health care, but that is mainly to help prevent spreading infection between patients, Warriner said. What’s more, health-care workers are trained in putting on and removing gloves without spreading contamination.

“I have heard of people who are using their teeth to take gloves off, or wear them while speaking on phones, or eat and drink with them on,” he said.

In the food sector, gloves are used to prevent contamination that follows the fecal-oral route (such as norovirus, hepatitis, salmonella) from being passed onto foods, he said. But again, they can’t be used as a substitute for handwashing.

“The message I try to get across is to think of the four pillars of protection: masks, eye protection, handwashing and social distancing to reduce the risk of acquiring COVID-19,” he said.

Warriner recently spoke to CBC News on this topic, as well as the Waterloo Region Record. He is available for interviews.

Contact:

Prof. Keith Warriner
kwarrine@uoguelph.ca