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No Surprise Here…New Study Reveals Public Restroom Bacterial Pathogens Easily Transmitted By The Touching Of Surfaces

December 10, 2011

What did your Mom always say when you walked into a public bathroom??? I don’t know about yours but mine always said, DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!!! Science has made Mom right…once again!

A recent study recently published online (PLoS One) using novel genetic sequencing methods revealed that there is an overabundance of bacteria in public restrooms — from the doors and the floors to the faucet handles and toilet seats — with potential public health implications.  And the surprise was?!??!  OK, it is a good confirmation of what we already know and hopefully impacts your hand hygiene.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder examined 12 public restrooms (six male and six female) in Colorado. Using a high-throughput genetic sequencing technique, they identified various bacteria on all of the surfaces they tested. The floor had the most diverse bacterial community, and human skin was the primary source of bacteria on all surfaces. I thought this was interesting…few differences were observed between the bacteria found in the male vs. female bathrooms.

The sequencing approach also allowed the researchers to determine the source of the bacteria they identified, including skin, soil and urine. This methodology could potentially help “analyze bathroom bacterial communities to identify proper (or improper) hygiene habitats, and that the exchange of bacteria on building surfaces may represent an important mode of pathogen transmission between individuals.”

The study’s conclusion was that the prevalence of gut and skin-associated bacteria throughout the restrooms surveyed is concerning since enteropathogens or pathogens commonly found on skin (e.g. Staphylococcus aureus) could readily be transmitted between individuals by the touching of restroom surfaces.

So as my Mom said… DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!!! And go wash your hands!  Now!

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