Helping Hands


Dr. Stephen HsuYou gotta hand it to Dr. Stephen Hsu. He got a leg up on cold and flu season. Last summer Hsu, a Georgia Regents University professor in the College of Dental Medicine, created a hand sanitizer and skin lotion using a compound derived from green tea. The compound offers protection from a range of viruses.

And even though cold and flu season is here, Hsu says his ProtecTeaV EGCG Hand Sanitizer and EGCG Skin Lotion, which are available in pharmacies and online, can do more than fight the common cold. He also clears up five common myths about hand sanitizer.

Myth #1: Hand sanitizers only prevent colds.

According to Hsu, studies in research journals show that the compound used in his hand sanitizer protects human cells from infection of HIV, herpes, norovirus, hepatitis B and C viruses, human papilloma virus and even Ebola.

“The significance of this technology is the potential to save thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lives from a variety of infections,” says Hsu, a recipient of the 2015 Georgia Bio Innovation Award.

Myth #2: Hand sanitizers replace hand washing.

“Soap and water are still the best way to clean the skin. When they’re not available, hand sanitizers are a great option,” Hsu says. “Sanitizers work best when your hands aren’t overly dirty or greasy, so if it’s possible, you always want to wash or wipe down your hands first to remove visible grime.” 

Myth #3: All hand sanitizers are created equally.

Most sanitizers kill bacteria and some viruses with alcohol, which evaporates in about 20 seconds. “This is fine for immediate cleansing if applied correctly, but it is temporary,” says Hsu. “The key is to provide a long-lasting barrier against viruses.” Hsu, who founded a start-up biotechnology and drug development company called Camellix LLC , says the combination of alcohol and the green tea compound in his sanitizer provides two-hour protection.

Myth #4: Sanitizers kill all bacteria and viruses.

Most bacteria can be killed by alcohol-based sanitizers, but the concentration of alcohol must be about 90 percent to effectively kill viruses. However, a concentration that high is also dangerously flammable, says Hsu, and the rabies and polio viruses are resistant to alcohol.

Myth #5: There is no wrong way to use hand sanitizer.

“The sanitizer can’t do its job if it isn’t applied properly,” Hsu says. To use hand sanitizer most effectively, he says, put a nickel-sized dollop of the product in the palm of one hand and rub hands together until the surface of the hands and fingers are coated. Continue rubbing them together until dry. For the best results, he recommends washing and drying your hands before using the sanitizer, then following with an application of lotion.