At least 60% of toothbrushes were contaminated with fecal coliforms in a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The coliforms settle on a toothbrush, the data revealed, after spreading through the air as a result of actions such as flushing the toilet.
From a 6/2/15 ASM Press Release:
“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,” said Lauren Aber, MHS (Graduate Student, Quinnipiac University). Potential microorganisms that can be introduced are enteric bacteria and pseudomonads.
All toothbrushes were collected from participants using communal bathrooms, with an average of 9.4 occupants per bathroom. Regardless of the storage method, at least 60% of the toothbrushes were contaminated with fecal coliforms. There is an 80% chance that the fecal coliforms seen on the toothbrushes came from another person using the same bathroom.
“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,” said Aber.
“Better hygiene practices are recommended for students who share bathrooms both in the storage of their toothbrush but also in personal hygiene,” said Aber. It is also recommended to follow the American Dental Association recommendations for toothbrush hygiene.
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