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News / July 13, 2015

Shared student bathrooms detrimental to toothbrush hygiene

by Guy Hiscott

Findings show that faecal coliforms are present on more than half of toothbrushes in communal bathrooms at a university.

Researchers found that ‘there was an 80% chance that the faecal coliforms seen on the toothbrushes came from another person using the same bathroom’ after testing the toothbrushes in communal bathrooms.

The findings show that toothbrushes serve as a ‘vector’ for the transmission of potentially pathogenic organisms.

‘The main concern is not with the presence of your own faecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with faecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,’ said Lauren Aber, study lead and graduate student. at Quinnipiac University.

All toothbrushes used in the study were collected from participants using communal bathrooms with an average of 9.4 occupants per bathroom.

The results showed that regardless of the storage method, at least 60% of the toothbrushes were contaminated with faecal coliforms.

There were no differences seen between the effectiveness of different decontamination methods such as cold water, hot water or rinsing with mouthwash.

Aber commented: ‘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.’

Study authors recommend better hygiene practices for students who share bathrooms when it comes to both storing their toothbrush and their personal hygiene.

The study was presented at the recent American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.