Scientists find that healthcare workers who pick their noses were more likely to develop COVID-19 than those who refrained

It's been well-established that the primary entry site for SARS-CoV-2 is through the nose, via the nasal epithelial tissue. So the findings of a new study, which showed that healthcare workers who picked their noses were more likely to catch COVID-19 than those who didn't, are absolutely unsurprising–and actually seem so commonsensical that they made me snicker. The Guardian provides more details:

The research, which took place in the Netherlands, collected data from 219 healthcare workers at Amsterdam University Medical Centers. Research director Dr. Jonne Sikkens explained that the purpose of the study was to determine what behaviors might be associated with higher levels of infection. The Guardian provides more details:

Overall, 34 of the 219 participants reported having contracted Covid by October 2020, according to PCR or antibody tests; 32 of the infections were among the 185 participants who picked their nose.

After taking into account whether the participants had had close contact with someone with Covid or worked directly with Covid patients – which would affect the level of PPE they were given and their risk of exposure to Covid – those who picked their noses were found to have almost a three times greater risk of developing a Covid infection than those who did not. Sikkens said with the proportion of nose pickers similar to figures from previous surveys of the general public, it seems participants were not self-censoring their responses. But, he added, while the finding of an association was not a surprise, the size of the effect was unexpectedly large.

The team said that nose-picking may directly introduce the virus to the nose, adding that the behaviour may be an underestimated cause of Covid transmission between healthcare workers.

However the team did not find an association between Covid infection risk and nail-biting, a finding they suggest may be down to proteins in saliva preventing the virus from entering the body's cells.

The study concluded with this very good advice: "Explicit recommendations against nose-picking should be included in the same SARS-CoV-2 infection prevention guidelines." Honestly, even though I giggled at the 'well, duh' nature of the findings, COVID is really no laughing matter, and I absolutely appreciate any new data that might help folks prevent catching and spreading COVID.