Science News: Fecal Matter Found On Toothbrushes, Tips To Avoid Contamination

Lauren Aber, a graduate student of Quinnipiac University, conducted a study to determine how much fecal matter was present on toothbrushes in shared bathrooms. Aber shared her results at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in New Orleans, LA.

To gather the data, toothbrushes from shared bathrooms at Quinnipiac University were collected. The average amount of students that used each bathroom was 9.4.

The study showed that 60 percent of toothbrushes in communal bathrooms contained fecal matter. Even worse, the study concluded that there was an 80 percent chance that the fecal matter on the toothbrushes came from others who used the bathroom. Aber commented on the results.

“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora.”

Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonadaceae were two types of bacteria found during this study. Both of these are common bacteria found in the digestive system.

The explanation provided for the fecal matter is obvious. Toothbrushes are commonly stored completely out in the open. In the enclosed space of a bathroom, microorganisms travel around the entire room. They do not just stay around the toilet. Would using a toothbrush cover protect against contamination? Aber, says no.

“Using a toothbrush cover doesn’t protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses.”

Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, spoke to WebMD about bathroom germs.

“Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl and it can take several hours for these particles to finally settle — not to mention where. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet.”

Based on the findings of this study, people who share bathrooms need to implement ways to properly clean their toothbrush.

The American Dental Association has suggestions on how to keep your toothbrush clean.

To better visualize how fecal matter from the toilet can reach your toothbrush, this YouTube video shows just how easily it happens after every flush.

A toothbrush is not the only thing that contains fecal matter. Fecal matter has been found on cell phones and even facial hair.

Do you share a bathroom with anyone? Will this information change the way you take care of your toothbrush? Leave a comment below.

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