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Fighting infections in the home

Our Germ Defence website is reducing the spread of viruses in the homes of 170 countries around the globe.

Key facts

  • A 2015 study found that Germ Defence helped cut in-house infections by over 14%

  • The website was quickly updated in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieved broach reach across the UK, including via PHE self-isolation advice web pages

  • Public volunteers have translated the resource into 27 languages, enabling it to reach users in 170 countries


Our Germ Defence website has helped cut in-home infections. It is the only website proven to help reduce infection in the home and has been approved nationally (published here and here).

It was built using our BRC LifeGuide software that allows researchers to quickly create and test websites to support healthy behaviour. Germ Defence’s design and content was shaped using the Southampton BRC’s Person-Based Approach. This combines behaviour change science with input from lots of users at every stage and results in websites that are simple and helpful for a wide range of people.

Cutting infection in the home

When someone has an infectious disease, people they live with are at high risk of infection. A 2015 trial involving over 20,000 households showed Germ Defence cut infections by over 14% (published here). Using Germ Defence also led to less severe infections, and fewer GP visits and antibiotic prescriptions. This led to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) endorsing Germ Defence in 2017.

When the pandemic struck, we adapted Germ Defence for COVID-19 in just one month. Funded by NIHR and UKRI, our team of behaviour change and medical experts worked with Public Health England (PHE) and members of the public.

Germ Defence was online by April 2020 and updated and improved throughout the pandemic, using public input, new evidence and guidance, and rapid testing. In the UK it was made available via PHE self-isolation advice web pages. It was also rolled out to all GP practices in England as a national priority project, supported by Chris Whitty and endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Translation for global reach

Public volunteers also translated it into 27 languages, reaching people in 170 countries. Findings from our Germ Defence Covid study (published here) were used by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

We will build on this experience make Germ Defence even more effective and provide more efficient ways of supporting health protection agencies. We are:

  • Adapting Germ Defence for use in schools with students, staff and parents to prevent spread of infection and keep schools open.

  • We are also using what we learned about speedy updating of public health guidance to provide the new UK Health Security Agency with better ways of advising the public in future.

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