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Abstract

The frequent contact people have with liquids containing pathogenic microorganisms provides opportunities for disease transmission. In this work, we quantified the transfer of bacteria—using E. coli as a model- from liquid to skin, estimated liquid retention on the skin after different contact activities (hand immersion, wet-cloth and wet-surface contact), and estimated liquid transfer following hand-to-mouth contacts. The results of our study show that the number of E. coli transferred to the skin per surface area (n [E. coli/cm2]) can be modeled using n = C (10−3.38+h), where C [E. coli/cm3] is the concentration of E. coli in the liquid, and h [cm] is the film thickness of the liquid retained on the skin. Findings from the E. coli transfer experiments reveal a significant difference between the transfer of E. coli from liquid to the skin and the previously reported transfer of viruses to the skin. Additionally, our results demonstrate that the time elapsed since the interaction significantly influences liquid retention, therefore modulating the risks associated with human interaction with contaminated liquids. The findings enhance our understanding of liquid-mediated disease transmission processes and provide quantitative estimates as inputs for microbial risk assessments.

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