Consider this the post wherein I channel my Inner ERV. During the last week, I’ve come across a couple sensationalist article about E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus being found on common surfaces. Here’s one article about shopping carts and E. coli:
Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. Of the 85 carts examined, 72 percent turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria.
The researchers took a closer look at the samples from 36 carts and discovered Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, on 50 percent of them — along with a host of other types of bacteria.
“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “That’s because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.”
The Bay Citizen commissioned Darleen Franklin, a supervisor at San Francisco State University’s biology lab, to analyze the bacterial content of a random BART seat. The results may make you want to stand during your trip.
Fecal and skin-borne bacteria resistant to antibiotics were found in a seat on a train headed from Daly City to Dublin/Pleasanton. Further testing on the skin-borne bacteria showed characteristics of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the drug-resistant bacterium that causes potentially lethal infections, although Ms. Franklin cautioned that the MRSA findings were preliminary.
High concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold were found on the seat. Even after Ms. Franklin cleaned the cushion with an alcohol wipe, potentially harmful bacteria were found growing in the fabric.
ZOMG! Well, maybe (I’m not sure what these tests are or why they disagree):
In two separate tests, Ms. Franklin identified characteristics of the MRSA bacteria growing in the seat. The first test confirmed the presence of staphylococcus aureus, the skin-borne bacteria. A second confirmed that the bacteria, like MRSA, was resistant to the antibiotics methicillin and penicillin. But a third test intended to isolate the MRSA bacteria was negative.
Look, this is silly. Regarding the MRSA, about 1.5% of healthy people who haven’t been in the hospital recently have MRSA, and about 30% of healthy people carry S. aureus:
The numbers are higher for those who have been in the hospital system (including medical workers). If you wash your hands
before picking your nose, you’ll be alright.
Moving along to E. coli. This is also silly. Do you keep your toothbrush in your bathroom? Do you want to know what’s growing on your toothbrush? (Probably not). Too bad, I’m gonna tell you: E. coli (among other things). To put it very crudely, when you wipe your ass, do you glove up or wear a biohazard suit? No. Just wash your hands? (Good).
How’s that working for you?
Not dead yet? (Glad to hear it).
MRSA is a problem in the clinical setting, and its increase in the healthy population is worrisome, since healthy people can serve as a reservoir of resistant organisms and resistance genes. Likewise, you don’t want to have an E. coli bloodstream infection. But both S. aureus and E. coli are commensal organisms: they live on and in us, and typically don’t cause disease–usually, only when they wind up where they don’t belong. If you come into contact with them–the aforementioned wiping your ass–you’ll be fine unless you’re severely immunocompromised or have an open wound.
This is scaremongering.
JUST WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! (Haven’t said that in a while…)