Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

How clean are the restrooms you use?

By Tim Sandle     Dec 2, 2014 in Science
Restrooms might be cleaner than you think, at least in terms of incidences of pathogenic microorganisms. Most of the bacteria found in restrooms come from the skin, followed by others introduced from the outside environment.
There's been virtually no research into how many bacteria, and how many different types of bacteria, lie in wait in public restrooms. To correct that, a new study has been commissioned to look at the "microbial biogeography" of restrooms. To test how quickly restrooms become contaminated with microorganisms and to see what types are present, researchers constructed a sterilized area and then took samples over time as people used the facility.
To chart this, scientists took samples from microbial community, on floors, toilet seats, and soap dispensers. The research showed that initially enteric bacteria were found (that is bacteria from the gut passed into the area from feces). However, because such organisms do not survive for long periods in cold and dry environments, they did not survive in high numbers.
Most pathogens reside within the body. The answering the question "how long bacteria survive outside of the human body?" depends on the type of bacteria and what kind of surface they are on. Most bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause diseases need moisture to survive so the moisture in the air and in surfaces can also affect how long they live outside the body.
Later, the predominant species recovered were from the skin, with a lower level of microorganisms transferred from the outside environment. The study went onto to show that the populations were relatively stable, not changing significantly over time. On average, skin bacteria accounted for up to 75 percent of the bacteria found, and fecal bacteria no more than 15 percent of the species recovered. In terms of antibiotic resistant bacteria, incidences of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were rare.
Interestingly toilet seat samples showed some differences in relation to gender. Here the bacteria Lactobacillus and Anaerococcus (characteristic of vaginal flora) were prevalent from ladies' room toilet seats; whereas gut-associated Roseburia and Blautia, were more common on toilet seats in men's rooms. With one genus, the vagina-associated Lactobacillaceae, these were likely to have arisen from from urine contamination.
Where pathogens are present, the research suggests that that bacterial pathogens could readily be transmitted between individuals by the touching of surfaces.
The findings have been published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research is titled “Ecological succession and viability of human-associated microbiota on restroom surfaces.”
More about Restrooms, bathrooms, Washrooms, toliets, enterics
More news from