Public Restrooms May Contain Very Few Dangerous Bacteria

Jack A Gilbert PhD Department of Ecology & Evolution Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637,MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jack A Gilbert PhD

Department of Ecology & Evolution
Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Gilbert: We have performed extensive analysis of the microbial distribution between humans and home surfaces in peoples houses. And are still exploring how bacteria are distributed around hospitals. Here we wanted to explore how bacteria from humans were distributed into a space in real time. By taking samples every hour post sterilization and seeing how the community stabilized, who remained active and whether they were pathogenic. We found that communities stabilized on a skin-associated microbiome within 5 hours, that staphylococcus remained active and yet none of these were particularly pathogenic. Yet we were able to identify pathogenic MRSA on surfaces around the bathroom, but they were extremely rare.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Gilbert: Public Bathrooms are actually not as dirty as we all think, they contain very few pathogens, and we should refrain from sterilizing them, unless there is a major pathogen outbreak.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Gilbert: We now want to explore how communication and gene sharing between bacteria on a surface support the development or suppression of pathogens. We hypothesize that the presence of a complex microbiome on the surface can significantly reduce the likelihood of a pathogen dominating on a surface, and as such we should embrace microbial biodiversity as a control of disease spread in public spaces.

Citation:

Ecological succession and viability of human-associated microbiota on restroom surfaces

Sean M. Gibbons, Tara Schwartz, Jennifer Fouquier, Michelle Mitchell, Naseer Sangwan, Jack A. Gilbert, and Scott T. Kelley

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. AEM.03117-14; published ahead of print 14 November 2014, doi:10.1128/AEM.03117-14

 

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