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Research project: Germ Defence

Currently Active: 

A digital behaviour change intervention to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak: A rapid co-design, implementation and evaluation project.

Germ defence

What is Germ Defence?

Germ Defence is a digital behaviour change intervention to help reduce the spread of viruses like coronavirus (Covid-19).  It is designed to be used by members of the public to protect themselves and the people they live with in the home.

It was developed based on evidence, theory and plenty of feedback from members of the public.

To access Germ Defence, click here:


Does it stop viruses spreading in the home?

Yes! A study with over 20,000 people found that using Germ Defence led to more hand washing and fewer colds, flu and stomach upsets1. It also helped stop viruses spreading to other people in a household.


How will Germ Defence help with Covid-19?

Germ Defence has now been updated for the Covid-19 pandemic. It contains the latest advice and guidelines from health experts on how to stay healthy. This is particularly important for people at more risk from the virus.

Users can choose to learn about implementing simple behaviours at home, such as hand washing or keeping distance if someone in the household is ill, and set their own goals to suit their lifestyle. Many people are already using Germ Defence across a wide range of countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Our research team is continuing to optimise the Germ Defence intervention in line with feedback from members of the public to make sure it is as feasible, persuasive, motivating and engaging as possible. We are working closely with Public Health England and public contributors during this process.


What will the research outputs be?

We are collecting online information about how Germ Defence is used, and how it affects people’s attitudes and behaviour.

In China, we are planning a rapid online trial to evaluate the value of adapting Germ Defence in line with feedback.

We are looking to create recommendations and tools for adapting public health advice for use in more countries and in any future outbreaks.  


Who is the research team?

The Germ Defence team includes researchers and clinicians from the University of Bath, University of Southampton, University of Bristol and Public Health England. It also includes members of the public who have helped make Germ Defence as relevant and helpful to people as possible.

Here is the full list of team members:

  • Dr Ben Ainsworth, Study lead, University of Bath
  • Prof Richard Amlot, Public Health England
  • Jennifer Bostock, Public contributor
  • Dr Tim Chadborn, Public Health England
  • Dr James Denison-Day, Technical developer, University of Southampton
  • Prof Nick Francis, University of Southampton
  • Carole Fry, Public Health England
  • Dr Natalie Gold, Public Health England
  • Dr Mio X Hu, University of Southampton
  • Prof Paul Little, University of Southampton
  • Dr Kate Morton, Public research coordinator, University of Southampton
  • Sascha Miller, Website content developer, University of Southampton
  • Prof Michael Moore, University of Southampton
  • Cathy Rice, Public contributor
  • Lauren Towler, Stakeholder coordinator, University of Southampton
  • Dr Merlin Wilcox, University of Southampton
  • Prof Lucy Yardley, Study Director, University of Bristol and University of Southampton

Funding: UK Research and Innovation 

Duration: March 2020-May 2021


Germ Defence website:

You can contact the research team at:

Twitter @GermDefence



1. Little, P., Stuart, B., Hobbs, F., Moore, M., Barnett, J., Popoola, D., . . . Raftery, J. (2015). An internet-delivered handwashing intervention to modify influenza-like illness and respiratory infection transmission (PRIMIT): a primary care randomised trial. The Lancet, 386(10004), 1631-1639


Related research groups

Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology (CCCAHP)
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