You’ll want to clean your show­er­head after read­ing this

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

The next time you take a shower, you might want to look above. To the show­er­head, pre­cisely … and won­der what’s lurk­ing in­side.

That’s the ques­tion be­hind a new re­search project that aims to plumb the in­nards of show­er­heads in Amer­ica and Europe to dis­cover what crit­ters may be skulk­ing there.

The Show­er­head Mi­cro­biome Project also aims to see how those mi­crobes are af­fected by the wa­ter used and the type of show­er­head. Re­searchers are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in My­cobac­terium, ac­cord­ing to the project’s web­site: “Some My­cobac­terium are pathogens. Oth­ers may be ben­e­fi­cial. Oth­ers still are pathogens in some con­texts and ben­e­fi­cial in oth­ers.” The project’s web­site de­scribes show­er­heads as “the desert washes of your home, places of both bounty and hard­ship. This mix of soak­ing wet and bone dry pro­vides cir­cum­stances that fa­vor un­usual sorts of mi­crobes.” What else could you find? “You may have worms,” one of the re­searchers told the New Yorker. “There’s even some ev­i­dence in the Netherlands of lit­tle crus­taceans.” That re­searcher, Robb Dunn, of North Carolina State Univer­sity, and his lab will be co­or­di­nat­ing the pro­cess­ing of show­er­head sam­ples in the U.S.

Other re­searchers in the U.S. in­clude Jen­nifer Honda of the Univer­sity of Colorado An­schutz Med­i­cal Cam­pus, Aurora, who is a non­tu­ber­cu­lous my­cobac­te­ria mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist; and Dr. Ed Chan, of Na­tional Jewish Health, Den­ver, who is a lung physi­cian. The duo will cul­ture the bac­te­ria found in the show­er­heads and study the re­la­tion­ship be­tween those bugs and hu­man lung dis­ease.

If you want to par­tic­i­pate, the re­searchers are still look­ing for a to­tal of 500 peo­ple will­ing to swab their show­er­heads. You can sign up at rob­dunnlab.com/projects/ show­er­heads. But they warn sci­ence is slow: “We won’t be able to say to­mor­row, ‘this is the so­lu­tion,’ or ‘your shower is un­healthy.’ ”

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