A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAND DISINFECTION

HOW SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES IN HYGIENE PAVED THE WAY FOR STERILLIUM®

A number of key pioneering scientists over the last 175 years made groundbreaking findings in the fight against infections – all leading to one seminal moment in the history of hand disinfection: the first bottle of Sterillium®, filled on 4 June 1965. 

CLEAN HANDS ARE THE BEST MEASURE AGAINST INFECTION

The issue of hygiene, universally accepted today as an important factor in the prevention of the spread of germs and infection, was unchartered and controversial territory in the science world for a large part of recent history. Even after the discovery of the first bacteria more than 300 years ago, it took a long time for the link between infections and inadequate hand hygiene to become an established fact amongst scientists.

And even as hand hygiene grew in significance, hand washing remained the predominant method of ensuring cleanliness.

That is until the launch of the product concept known as Sterillium®. It changed the hygiene world forever with its reliable elimination of microorganisms by the alcohol, its easy and time-saving application, and replenishing skincare formula. And to this very day, HARTMANN continues to develop Sterillium® in line with the bacterial challenges faced by the modern world.

1847

In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis was one of the first to sense that hands play an important role in the chain of transmission. At the obstetrical clinic in Vienna, the German-Hungarian physician ordered the use of chlorinated lime solution for hand washing. The mortality rate due to childbed fever dropped from 18% to 2%. 

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French chemist and microbiologist

1862

In 1862, the Frenchman Louis Pasteur proved that bacteria can only evolve from existing bacterial cells and not from inanimate matter. The chemist developed and pioneered the procedures of disinfection, sterilisation and pasteurisation.

1865

Around 1865, Sir Joseph Lister concluded from Pasteur’s findings that bacteria must also be responsible for poor wound healing. His remedy: carbolic acid to disinfect the air and the hands, and to soak dressings before covering wounds. The Scottish surgeon’s colleagues responded with scepticism.

Paul HARTMANN immediately put this finding into context: Lister gave the German dressing manufacturer detailed instructions on how to produce the groundbreaking “carbolic gauze”.
Robert Koch (1843-1910), German physician and pioneering microbiologist

1875

From 1875 onwards, Robert Koch dedicated his work to hunting down pathogens and was always there when many people died of epidemics. He did research into anthrax and cholera. In 1876, he detected anthrax spores and, in 1882, tuberculosis bacteria. As Professor of Hygiene at the newly founded hygiene institute at Berlin University, he turned Bacteriology into a respected science.

The RKI guidelines on hygiene named after Robert Koch still shape the daily routine in clinics to this day. 

1905

In 1905, Carl Flügge – Koch’s successor – dominated the entire sphere of hygiene. He introduced the distinction between hygienic and surgical hand disinfection. Scrubbing the hands with soap and a brush for several minutes became standard practice for surgeons.

1929

In 1929, the Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, thereby landing the groundwork for modern-day antibiotics. Around 60% of nosocomial infections can be attributed to resistant microbes.

1965

Advertisement of 1966

In 1965, the young Peter Kalmár was sure: hand disinfection had to be revolutionized. It had to become more efficient, faster and friendlier to the skin. The then surgical physician assistant at the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany, had observed that hand washing was often disregarded due to lack of time. Together with the experts of Bacillolfabrik Dr. Bode & Co. in Hamburg, he developed the solution: Sterillium®, the world’s first alcohol-based yet skin-friendly hand disinfectant that was simply rubbed into the hands – without prior hand washing, additives or any other measure.

ON 4 JUNE 1965, THE FIRST BOTTLES OF STERILLIUM® LEFT THE PRODUCTION LINE AND CHANGED THE EVERYDAY PRACTICES OF CLINICS, NURSES AND PHYSICIANS FOREVER.

Since then, the classic wall dispensers have been an integral feature throughout clinics and practices. This wasn’t the end of hygiene history of course. Everyday practice continues to present HARTMANN’s disinfection experts with ever-new challenges.

RELEVANT RESEARCH FOR INFECTION PROTECTION
We all share a common goal of minimising the risk of infections in the healthcare sector through hand disinfection – and ultimately saving lives. At Sterillium®, efforts to gain new insights in this field have continued unabated for fifty years. Founded under the umbrella of the HARTMANN Group, the BODE SCIENCE CENTER is dedicated to building expertise in all aspects of hand disinfection – where science and practice converge. This has resulted in a broad spectrum of studies into efficacy, skin tolerability and compliance.