You’re go­ing to brush your teeth with that?

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Shar­ing a bath­room al­ready has its pit­falls—and you know what they are. But a new study is flush­ing out more nau­se­at­ing con­cerns lurk­ing in those communal spa­ces.

(Germa­phobes may want to stop read­ing now.)

Tooth­brushes in shared bath­rooms could be teem­ing with fe­cal mat­ter. “It’s not some­thing you would typ­i­cally think about,” said Lau­ren Aber, a re­searcher at Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity. But mist from the toi­let “can spread about 6 to 9 feet when the toi­let is flushed” she said.

Dur­ing the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy con­fer­ence this month, Aber pre­sented find­ings of a study in which 135 tooth­brushes were col­lected from Quin­nip­iac stu­dents, who on av­er­age shared bath­room space with five other stu­dents. The tooth­brushes were eval­u­ated within 12 hours of their last use and stu­dents com­pleted sur­veys about their tooth­brush san­i­ti­za­tion and stor­age habits.

Re­gard­less of the stor­age method, 60% of the tooth­brushes were con­tam­i­nated with bac­te­ria com­monly found in hu­man fe­ces, the study found. Some stu­dents re­ported reg­u­larly de­con­tam­i­nat­ing their brushes with mouth­wash, but even that didn’t dis­in­fect them.

And don’t rely on a tooth­brush cover, which “ac­tu­ally cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where bac­te­ria are bet­ter suited to grow by keep­ing the bris­tles moist,” Aber said.

It’s like we’re walk­ing “in a fe­cal cloud,” said San Diego State Uni­ver­sity bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Stan­ley Maloy, who in­ter­viewed Aber in a con­fer­ence pod­cast.

Now don’t you want to buy a new tooth­brush?

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