If there’s an echoing theme among parents with small children, it might be “Don’t put that in your mouth, you never know where it’s been.” As it turns out, according to a new study, bacteria are in a lot of places you don’t expect them to be, despite your best efforts.
As published in the journal Infection and Immunity and interpreted on AboutLawsuits.com, the study by researchers from the University of Buffalo suggests that cultures of certain bacteria can linger on cribs, toys, books and other children’s items long after scientists originally thought was possible, posing a potential risk of spreading common infections.
Researchers analyzed cultures, or biofilms, of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus Pyogenes, and found that bacteria survived outside of the human body, the typical host necessary for growth, and they lasted for months as viable forms of infection.
S. Pyogenes is the culprit behind strep throat and skin infections. S. Pneumoniae attacks the respiratory tract, ears and other sites common among children and elderly people, and can cause death.
The researchers tested surfaces and items kids touch every day. There were high levels of both types of bacteria many hours after the surfaces had been cleaned; 4 in 5 stuffed toys tested positive for S. Pneumoniae and other surfaces yielded colonies of S. Pyogenes.
Because bacteria might survive in environments other than the human body, they have the potential to be continually infectious. The thinking used to be that their transmission required humans to breathe in infected bodily excretions from sneezing or blood exposure.
Rethinking cleaning procedures seems to be in order for day care facilities, schools, home nurseries and hospitals.
The best defense against this kind of bacterial exposure is what experts have preached forever: Wash hands often — yours and your kids — and use warm water and soap. Lather for at least 20 seconds.
Wash hands especially after touching particularly germy surfaces, such as toys, door handles, faucets, computer keyboards, touch screens and remote controls. Try not to touch your face after touching these surfaces.
Ask the people who look after your children — day care providers, baby sitters, teachers — what they do to prevent little ones from sharing the things they shouldn’t. Simply letting these folks know that you’re interested in hygiene can help them adhere to a healthful regimen.