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Women Found to Have a Greater Variety of Bacteria on Hands

Posted: November 5, 2008

Wash your hands, folks, especially you ladies. A new study found that women have a greater variety of bacteria on their hands than men do. And everybody has more types of bacteria than the researchers expected to find.

"One thing that really is astonishing is the variability between individuals, and also between hands on the same individual," said University of Colorado biochemistry assistant professor Rob Knight, a co-author of the paper. "The sheer number of bacteria species detected on the hands of the study participants was a big surprise, and so was the greater diversity of bacteria we found on the hands of women," added lead researcher Noah Fierer, an assistant professor in Colorado's department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The researchers aren't sure why women harbored a greater variety of bacteria than men, but Fierer suggested it may have to so with the acidity of the skin. Knight said men generally have more acidic skin than women.

Other possibilities are differences in sweat and oil gland production between men and women, the frequency of moisturizer or cosmetics applications, skin thickness or hormone production, he said. Women also may have more bacteria living under the surface of the skin where they are not accessible to washing, Knight added.

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