Getting your head shaved clean might be trendy, but it exposes you to the risk of getting infected with hepatitis, or even HIV, a new research shows.
The study, by South African researchers, revealed that most shaving machines gather blood from clean-shave haircuts, and could be contributing to the high prevalence of Hepatitis B in sub-Saharan countries.
They confirmed that hair clippers were contaminated with blood and blood-borne viruses, and Hepatitis B was detected with enough DNA copies to pose a risk of transmitting infection.
The findings were published in the South African Medical Journal last week.
Dr Zandile Spengane of the University of Cape Town said although HIV was not detected in the small study, the risk of transmission should be quantified.
“A history of haircut-associated bleeding as a result of clean-shave haircuts was an unexpected finding. The potential transmission of blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B (HBV) and HIV is most concerning,” said Dr Spengane.
The study, Blood and virus detection on barber clippers, was done to investigate the prevalence of blood contamination on barbers’ tools, especially focusing on the presence of HIV and hepatitis B viruses.
Aerial maps were used to sample 50 barber shops from three townships in Cape Town, South Africa.
Basic demographic data was collected by getting a clipper from every barber immediately after it was used for a clean-shave haircut. The barbers were given a new clipper in exchange.
The methods used by the barbers to clean the clippers after use on each client were documented. Each clipper was placed in a ziplock bag at room temperature, after which the bag was sealed and taken to a laboratory for a virological sampling of the clipper.
“The hepatitis B and HIV status of clients was unknown. There are some confounding factors that could have contributed to our results, such as the skill of the barbers and the methods they used to cut the hairstyles,” Dr Spengane said.
She said the amount of time spent cleaning the clippers using the different methods was not measured.
“This is also a possible confounding factor and could have contributed to the results. A study with a bigger sample size could obtain results of better quality,” she added.
The study found out that the clean-shave haircut was the most popular, requested by 78 per cent of the clients.
Of the clippers collected, 42 per cent tested positive for HBB (a blood protein infection), confirming that blood was detected. None tested positive for HIV, while four 8 per cent tested positive for HBV.