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Microbial Contaminants of Barbers’ Clippers and It’s Public Health Effect

Microbial Contaminants of Barbers’ Clippers and It’s Public Health Effect in Abakaliki Metropolis


The assessment of clippers which is made up of blade assemblies used repeatedly with or without sterilization by barbers during barbering operations has always been crucial with reference to public health importance. This study focused on the identification of the microorganisms that contaminates electric hair clippers used by barbers in public barbing saloons, with the aim of ascertaining their public health implications. Swabs were made of all the hair clippers used in the saloons (before and after disinfection) and cultured in Nutrient Agar (NA) and MacConkey Agar (MCA), for isolation of bacteria and in Saboraud’s Dextrose Agar (SDA), for growth of fungi. The study revealed Malassezia and Trichophyton species as consistent fungi species while staphylococcus Streptococcus and Bacillus species were common bacteria consistently isolated from barbing clippers before and after the use of disinfectant (Jik, Izal, Dethol, Kerosene, Fuel, methylated spirit and others), which are the disinfectant commonly used by babers in Abakaliki town. Malassezia and Trichophyton occurred respectively, which is evident of infectious scalp diseases and significant infectious dermatophytes. Of all the used disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) showed more antiseptic properties on all isolates with a zone of inhibition of 12mm (Malassezia), 14mm (Trichophyton), 42mm (Staphylococcus), 40mm (Streptococcus) and 30mm (Bacillus) while fuel and kerosene were least in antiseptic properties and showed zero of inhibition for all the isolates. The result therefore showed that Hydrogen peroxide is suitable for barbing operations and could be an alternative to high level disinfection.



From 2002 till date, there has been an increase in the establishment of barbering industry, the majority of which is controlled by people with little or no training/knowledge on infection controlled practices. Although the barbering industry is known for its aesthetic activity, research however shows the possibility of it making its patrons feel sick by acquisition of contagious diseases. (Kondo et al., 2006). All individual (male and female) have approximately 300,000 hairs on their scalp with a growth rate of approximately half an inch per month (Elewski, 2000). Therefore, they are expected to visit a baber’s shop at least once a month for a haircut. The use of barbing clipper for barbering operation is a substitute for the traditional use of razor blade and other sharp objects following advancement in science, technology and civilization (Mackenzie, et al., 2002).

There are several communicable diseases of the scalp that are of concern in barbering and this is because of the re-use of barbing clippers without appropriate disinfection or sterilization. In Nigeria for example, some barbers are known for using Kerosene, diesel, fuel and other cleaning agents for the sterilization of their electric clippers. A number of infections such as ringworm, dandruff and other impetigo like lesion caused by bacteria have been reported to be infections associated with barbering operation. Causative organisms are usually present in non-living cornified layers of the skin and its appendages (Kligman et al., 2006). However, the establishment of a mycotic infection during barbering operation usually depends on the size of the inoculums and on the resistance of the host but the severity of the infection seems to depend mostly on the immunologic status of the host (Mackenzie et al., 1986). Disinfection which is the removal or distraction of pathogenic microorganisms that may cause infection from surfaces such as the blade of a barbing clipper is usually carried out by the use of disinfectants (Boyce, 2000). These disinfectants cause distraction either by coagulating the protein of the bacteria, by destroying its cell membrane or by the removal of a sulphohydric group from the organisms. The procedures for disinfection have been rviewed during recent years to ensure effectiveness against microorganisms, the revised procedure has been labeled as High Level Disinfectant (HLD) which at present is the only one recommended as a guideline but is rarely applied in the barbering industry (Boyce, 2000). Despite the possible risk associated with barbering operations, their activity is still under little or no scrutiny as a means of spreading infectious diseases.

1.1 Aim of Study

This work is aimed at investigating the possible microbial contamination of barbers’ clippers and its public health effect , so as to highlight the possible diseases which the masses are exposed to, and to reveal a standard sterilization/disinfection technique, and then make necessary recommendations based on the findings.

1.2 Objectives

  1. To isolate bacteria species like staphylococcus, streptococcus and bacillus
  2. To isolate fungi species like malassezia and trichophyton
  3. To ascertain different public health implication, posed to barbers’ clippers



Though barbing (cutting) of hair is one of the ways of keeping the body clean, using electric clipper, there are bacterial and fungal contaminants found on the clipper and which can be dangerous to humans.

Fungi and bacteria were found on electric clippers despite the constant sterilization before and after barbing an individual’s hair. They include; Malassezia and Trichophyton species as consistent fungi species while Staphylococcus, Staphylococcus and Bacillus species were common bacteria consistently isolated from barbing clippers. Thee organisms were observed to be the causative agents of most diseases of the scalp which are commonly seen in individuals involved in the use of public barbing saloons, organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus causes folliculitis. Gupta et al., (2014). According to American Hair Loss Association, folliculitis is defined as the inflammation of hair follicles. This bacterial infection looks like acne with little rings of inflammation surrounding the opening of the hair follicles. This bacterial infection looks like acne with little rings of inflammation surrounding the opening of the hair follicle. When in severe state of folliculitis which are caused by oils and greases applied to the skin that clog up their hair follicles, we also have “hot tub follicles” which is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa (AHLA, 2010). Fungal pathogens are also found on the clippers, they include the dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are funfi that are filamentous which has characteristics colonies like fluffy and glabrous on Sabouraud Agar. It causes a disease condition known as dermatophytosis. Karincaoglu et al., (2004). They include Microsporum audouinii which is a very common cause of ringworm, Trichophyton tonsurans cause of ringworm, Trichophyton tonsurans causes tinea capitis especially in United States and Latins American Countries. Piedra happens when the hair fibres are infected by a fungus which shows development of hard nodules on hair fibers. The two basic types of piedra are black piedra and white piedra referring to the colour of nodules formed on the hair fibres. Black piedra is caused by Piedreae hortae and white piedra is caused by Trychosporon biegelii. Piedra infection is not limited to the hairs of the scalp but also affects the hair of the body and genital areas. The species of Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermis. A species known as Staphylococcus aureus (Coagulase positive) is a causative organism for several hair follicle infections known as furuncles and carbuncles. Eugene et al., (2004). There are also fungal contaminants found on the clipper that causes fungal infection to man. They include, Trichophyton tousurans, Microsporum audouinii, Piedra hortae, and Trichophyton bigelii, they are all known as drmatophytes.

2.1 Folliculitis

Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles which books like a small red bump or pimple that develops at the site of involved hair follicle. As this infection progresses, the hair can be pulled from its follicle accompanied by a small pus. But when the infection extends from the follicles to adjacent tissues, it results to localized redness, swelling, severe tenderness and pain which is known as Furuncle or Boil. Eugene et al., (2004).

2.2 Types of folliculitis

Every hair on the human body grows from a follicle, a shaft or opening on the surface of the skin. Although follicles are densest on the scalp, they are also present everywhere except on the palms, soles and mucous membranes. The pilosebaceous unit of the follicle is divided into three parts; the infundibulum or the superficial part including the sebaceous gland, the isthmus (middle segment) and the inferior part, which comprises of the stem and hair bulb. Normally, the follicles carry out their functions with few problems, but when they are damaged, or invaded by viruses, bacteria or fungi, it leads to infections and folliculitis. Suss et al., (1999). The term folliculitis is used to describe inflammatory reaction in the superficial aspect of the hair follicle.

In order to simplify the broad spectrum of folliculitis, the condition is classified into infectious folliculitis and non-infectious folliculitis, based on clinical manifestations and therapeutic applications. Based on the causative agent, infectious folliculitis is further classified as:

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