Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2016

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Take care of your hands! We get this message from the fi rst day of massage school and hear constant reminders along the way, but still we struggle with the best ways to prevent the transmission of pathogens by way of the skin. And we aren't alone. Even with massive amounts of research on best practices, studies of medical personnel show that established hand hygiene protocols are often underused, or inappropriately used, leading to an increased risk of infection for both caregivers and patients. In this edition of Pathology Perspectives, we take a look at infectious agents, hand hygiene, and the best options for keeping ourselves and our clients safe. OUR MICROBIOME Bacteria live everywhere around and inside us: on the surface of our skin, in the mucous membranes of our digestive, respiratory, and urogenital tracts, and in all our orifi ces. Researchers sometimes call them our "indigenous microbiota." Amazingly, the bulk of the genetic material we carry around isn't ours; it belongs to our resident bacteria. Bacteria that colonize humans are often categorized in three groups: commensals, mutualistic bacteria, and pathogens. • Commensal bacteria: These inhabit our skin, mouth, gut, and other mucous membranes, but under normal circumstances they neither benefi t nor harm us. Those circumstances can change, however, and some commensal bacteria have been seen to become pathogenic. • Mutualistic bacteria: These are organisms that provide us with some benefi ts, as we do them: we have a symbiotic relationship. Many of the bacteria in our gut are mutualistic; we give them a home and they help digest some substances and synthesize vitamin K for us. Some of the mutualistic species on our skin provide benefi t just by taking up space: they inhibit the growth of other species that are more aggressive or parasitic. • Pathogenic bacteria: These are organisms that can cause damage, usually because they actively attack healthy cells, or because the substances they excrete are severely toxic and damaging. Most of us are familiar with the major players in this category: one of the most problematic is methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); more on this cootie can be found in "Mercy, Mercy MRSA!" (Massage & Bodywork, July/August 2008, page 112.) 40 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 6 education PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES Hand Health Gloves, Hygiene, and Microbiota By Ruth Werner

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