A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans has revealed the dangers of keeping one's toothbrush in communal bathrooms.
Researchers from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut examined the toothbrushes of students who shared the bathroom with at least nine people and found that 60 percent of the toothbrushes were contaminated with fecal matter and this is regardless of how the toothbrushes were stored.
Of the contaminated toothbrushes, the researchers found that 80 percent were contaminated with fecal matter of somebody else other than that of the user.
The researchers said that people who have the bathroom all for themselves may also likely be sticking their own poop molecule into their mouth when they brush their teeth but the main concern is when one's toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from another person as this contains viruses, parasites, and bacteria that are not part of one's normal flora.
Among the microorganisms that can be introduced because of fecal contamination in toothbrush include enteric bacterial pathogens which include the likes of salmonella, which is known to cause typhoid fever and parathyphoid fever; Campylobacter, which causes campylobacteriosis, a gastrointestinal infection marked by inflammatory and sometimes bloody diarrhea, cramps, pain and fever; and E.coli which causes urinary tract infection and gastroenteritis.
E.coli infection is marked by diarrhea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea which can turn bloody within the day. In Worst cases, virulent strains of E.coli could also cause bowel necrosis or tissue death.
Although the researchers did not find practical ways that could provide daily protection against contamination, they recommended that people who use communal bathrooms follow the recommendations of the American Dental Association which include not sharing toothbrushes and rinsing the toothbrush prior to and after use.
ADA likewise recommends storing the toothbrush in upright position as well as avoid touching other brushes to avoid the risks of cross contamination.
The researchers likewise noted that using a toothbrush cover does not actually protect bacterial growth in a toothbrush. Instead, it actually provides bacteria with an environment suited for their growth as they keep the bristles smooth and prevents the head of the toothbrush from drying out between uses.
"Better hygiene practices are recommended for students who share bathrooms both in the storage of their toothbrush but also in personal hygiene," said study researcher Lauren Aber, from Quinnipiac University.
Photo: Morgan | Flickr