Picking up mice after sanitising your hands can affect mouse behaviour

16 June 2021

During the Covid 19 pandemic, most of us have become all too familiar with hand sanitisers, sometimes complaining of their strong smell or the feeling left on our hands, whilst appreciating their protective effects. Even before the pandemic, laboratory staff often rub hand sanitiser on their hands immediately before picking mice up to help prevent disease spread, but the effects on the mice were unknown.  

In research part-funded by UFAW and recently published by the Royal Veterinary College, researchers found that lab mice handled with alcohol-based sanitiser reared up and groomed themselves significantly more than without it. The sanitiser also affected social behaviour, meaning the mice sniffed and groomed each other more, and they fought with each other less than usual but the decreased aggression was unfortunately only short-lived. The increased grooming and sniffing is likely to have been because of the foreign scent on the mice, especially because mice have a far stronger sense of smell than humans do.

The sanitiser also seemed to cause the mice to eat and drink more, perhaps because mice were trying to wash the taste out of their mouths after grooming the substance off their fur. The longer term animal welfare effects of hand sanitiser use when handling laboratory animals remains unknown.

The research can be found here: Lopez-Salesansky, N., Wells, D.J., Chancellor, N., Whitfield, L., & Burn, C.C. (2021) Handling mice using gloves sprayed with alcohol-based hand sanitiser: acute effects on mouse behaviour. Animal Technology & Welfare 20: 11-20

Image:  Credit E Rowley