Traceable to similar studies in the past, bathrooms or washrooms are the focal points of baterial infections coming under researchers’ radar increasingly of late.
Lauren Aber of the Quinnipiac University in the US has conducted the study collecting toothbrushes from several common and communal bathrooms at the university shared by about 10 individuals on average and realised that fecal matter resides on every toothbrush, whether own or used by someone else willingly or stealthily.
“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,” says Aber.
Despite strict adherence to cleanliness drives and norms, the researcher found that 60% were contaminated with fecal coliforms and the chances of these coliforms coming from someone else is about 80%, he noted in his study.
In terms of hygiene, he found no big variation in using cold water or hot water to rinse the toothbrush as the residue remained stuck in the brush and in many cases where owners had claimed regular rinsing in hot water still proved futile with the fecal contamination of the brush.
“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,” says Aber.
More than the type of the bathroom whether communal or individual, there is a strong possibility of contamination with other substances from the toilet leading to bacterial infections, said Aber whose paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
Apart from Aber’s study, even hollow-headed power toothbrushes are solid goldmines for the bacteria to transmit dangerous infections to the users, says another study from the Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
“Toothbrushes can transmit microorganisms that cause disease and infections. A solid-head design allows for less growth of bacteria and bristles should be soft and made of nylon,” says this study’s author Donna Warren Morris. While finding a solid head design inside a packaged brush is difficult, he said it helps in the longer run.
While studies are many about shared toothbrushes and even paste transfering germs, it is advised that family members should shun sharing bathroom toiletry. If one family member is sick, rest of the family may get sick too and always it is advised to squeeze a tiny bit of paste out abd rinse the tube before using the paste in a shared atmosphere.
Otherwise, discarding your toothbrush every 3 months and everytime after you have been sick (had the flu, a cold, etc) so that the germs do not re-enter the body and cause infection, say experts.