The University of Southampton
Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

PRIMIT, an online programme, to reduce cold and flu infections

handwashing
How better handwashing can reduce infections

NAMRIP researchers have developed a website to explore the possibility that by changing their behaviour, people can reduce the incidence of cold and flu infections they experience. Their research has examined the real-world effectiveness of PRIMIT, a free-to-access, interactive, web-based programme. It is hoped that once their project is complete, the website can go live and that it can have an impact on reducing infections.

The PRIMIT website works by giving users four weekly sessions which explain medical evidence. It encourages users to learn simple techniques to avoid catching and passing on viruses and other infections. It allows them to monitor handwashing behaviour, and it provides tailored feedback.

To carry out their research, the team enrolled 20,066 individuals, aged 18 years and older, from 344 general practices across the UK, to participate. This took place across three winters, from January 2011 to March 2013, in the midst of the season for flu and other respiratory infections. These participants were randomly assigned either access to the PRIMT website or no intervention at all. Participants were followed for 16 weeks and questionnaires were used to measure episodes of respiratory infections, duration of symptoms, and to check whether other household members had a similar illness.

lucy
Professor Lucy Yardley speaking at the NAMRIP launch conference

The results showed that users of the website reported fewer gastrointestinal infections, a lower demand for consultations with their doctors, and fewer antibiotic prescriptions. These findings suggest that a simple, cheap internet programme to encourage handwashing can reduce the risk of infection by around 14 per cent. Because most of the population catches coughs, colds, sore throats and other respiratory infections, this could have an important impact on reducing the spread of these viruses in the general population, and also help reduce the pressure on NHS services, including the prescribing of antibiotics, during the winter months.

Publications

Little, Paul, Stuart, Beth, Hobbs, F.D.R., Moore, Mike, Barnett, Jane, Popoola, Deborah, Middleton, Karen, Kelly, Joanne, Mullee, Mark, Raftery, James, Yao, Guiqing, Carman, William, Stokes-Lampard, Helen, Williamson, Ian, Joseph, Judith, Miller, Sascha and Yardley, Lucy (2015) A PRImary care randomised trial of an internet intervention to Modify Influenza-like illness and respiratory infection Transmission (PRIMIT trial). The Lancet, 1-25.

Acknowledgements:

This project is funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme (study number 09/800/22), an MRC and NIHR partnership. The EME Programme is funded by the MRC and NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland and NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland

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