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What’s Living on That…? The Answer: Nothing Remarkable

Lindsay Kimbrell and Beth Eskridge are microbiologists in the WakeMed Pathology Lab.

Last month, we asked you to recommend some items for us to swab, culture and interpret.  We swabbed a ketchup bottle on a restaurant table, buffet tongs, vending machine buttons, hallway hand sanitizer pump, gym water fountain, elevator buttons, grocery cart handle, public bathroom sink handle and a door handle at a department store.

And, we even took it one step further growing cultures on plastic daycare toy, video game controller, cell phone, microwave, stuffed animal, mom’s purse, refrigerator door handle and a lunch box.

Encouragingly we found no significant disease-causing organisms on any of these items.  Everything had germs and there was skin flora on every single culture, but all of the organisms were things that are typically found on skin.  In fact, this good bacteria helps protect our skin from more opportunistic bugs like MRSA.

What we learn from this experiment is that there are germs on everything, but as long as we are healthy, the chance of getting sick by touching everyday items is very small.  There are exceptions, however.  So, to protect yourself make sure to wash your hands frequently using proper technique, especially after using the bathroom or handling raw meat or eggs.