Findings of a new study have suggested that toothbrushes in communal bathrooms are acting as breeding grounds for fecal coliforms, a non-sporulating, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped, gram-negative bacterium. According to researchers conducting the said study, those toothbrushes are allowing the bacteria to spread rapidly to distant places.
These bacteria have been named “fecal coliforms” as they originate in our intestines. According to Lauren Aber, a graduate student from the Quinnipiac University, presence of fecal matters on toothbrushes is not the primary concern. The factor that is a bigger cause of worry is that when a toothbrush gets contaminated by fecal matters belonging to some other person, the user of the toothbrush gets exposed to parasites, viruses and bacteria that were originally not part of his or her normal flora.
During the study, researchers gathered toothbrushes from several communal bathrooms in Quinnipiac. Those bathrooms are shared by 9.4 people on average. While people using the bathrooms were found to practice different storage methods for keeping their toothbrushes protected, the researchers discovered that as much as 60% of all toothbrushes collected by them were infected by fecal coliforms.
The number obtained during this new study is consistent with the facts put forward by a previous research conducted on fecal coliforms and toothbrushes.
The new study also informed that in case of toothbrushes in communal bathrooms, the chances that fecal coliforms infecting the brushes belong to someone else are as high as 80%.
The researcher further observed that decontamination using hot and cold water produced similar results. Also, rinsing the brushes with mouthwash also didn’t showcase any better result as far as decontamination was concerned.
The researchers analyzed only two toothbrushes, which according to their owners were frequently rinsed with mouthwash, both those brushes showed clear signs of fecal contamination.
Aber said that toothbrush covers don’t possess the ability to protect toothbrushes from getting contaminated by bacteria; according to him, these accessories end up creating a better environment for the bacteria to grow. This is because toothbrush covers allow the bristles to remain moist, and it’s a known fact that bacteria thrive on moist surfaces. Although this particular study is talking about communal bathrooms, toothbrushes’ vulnerability to contamination is not restricted to communal bathrooms. It is a problem associated with all bathrooms, communal or not.