Students living in dorms and use communal bathrooms have a new reason to change their toothbrushes more frequently. Research presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology shows that toothbrushes stored in communal bathrooms have a higher transmission rate of fecal coliforms.
Scientists say the main concern is not with the presence of a person’s own fecal matter on their 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 their normal flora.
The communal bathroom toothbrushes study included brushes that were collected from people who shared a bathroom with 9 or more people. Regardless of the storage method, at least 60% of the toothbrushes were contaminaed with fecal coliforms. There were no differences seen with the effectiveness of the decontamination methods between cold water, hot water or rinsing with mouthwash. Scientists say, there is an 80% chance that the fecal coliforms seen on the toothbrushes came from another person using the same bathroom.
What should students do?
Transport toothbrushes in and out of the bathroom before and after every use. Do not use a toothbrush cover, as it tends to keep the bristles moist – a perfect environment for bacteria growth. It’s always best to let the head of the toothbrush dry out between uses. And, always keep a toothbrush away from a toilet.
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