• Y.M Muthiani Faculty of science, Department of Medical Microbiology, Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology, Nairobi, Kenya
  • V.N Matiru Faculty of science, Department of Medical Microbiology, Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology, Nairobi, Kenya
  • C. Bii Kenya medical research Institute, Centre for Microbiology research, Nairobi, Kenya
Keywords: Skin infections, second hand clothes, efficacy, disinfection methods


This study examined the pathogenic microbial levels in second hand undergarments and compared the
effectiveness of disinfection methods used to reduce microbial load in the garments. Of special interest were
pathogenic microbes in undergarments such as panties, bras, socks and towels which were collected from various
flea markets. The study was planned following prior casual questioning of consumers to find out the most common
decontamination methods used on these clothes. Clothe samples collected from the Gikomba second hand market
were examined in a biomedical laboratory for evidence of high levels and types of pathogenic microbes and
persistence of the pathogenic microbes that can be attributed to skin infection after decontamination procedures.
Culture and biochemical methods were used for investigation. A variety of potential skin pathogens were isolated
from unwashed second hand undergarments, socks and towels. Several bacteria were isolated including
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). The
fungi isolated from the unwashed clothes included Scopulariopsis brevicalis, Geotrichum candidum, Scytalidium,
Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Rhodotorula sp., Cladosporium sp., Candida tropicalis, Candida glabrata and
Aspergilus flavus. Panties and bras had the highest count of both bacteria and fungi. The mycoflora was not limited
to dermatophytes such as Trichophyton but other fungi exist such as Alternaria alternata which are pathogenic. In
this study, the clothes were washed with grade 2 laundry bar soap. After washing there was a reduction in the
bacterial (t12 = 9.6, P < 0.001) and yeast (t12 = 3.5, P > 0.005) plate counts but therefore was a no significant
reduction in mold counts (t12 = 1.1, P > 0.005). The kill time for both Jik and Savlon against the MRSA isolates from
clothes was 2 minutes. The concentrations of Omo used do not kill the MRSA isolates at 10 min. The study showed
that second hand clothes are frequently contaminated by several pathogenic bacteria and fungi, which remain on
these clothes even after washing with ordinary bar soaps. The information obtained from this study form a basis of
advising consumers, public, Ministry of Health and health workers dealing with immunocompromised patients in
nursing homes and hospitals. The findings from the study also reinforce the need for appropriate disinfection and
conscientious contact control precautions