Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shower Anyone??

For anyone that has taken a microbiology course, especially here at Ashland you feel completely dirty after finishing up experiments in lab. So what better way of cleansing yourself from a hard days work in the lab, experimenting with bacteria that you are trying to identify for your 25 page lab report. Who doesn’t like waking up and taking a hot shower before school or work to feel clean throughout the day? What people don’t know is that the showerhead is a perfect environment for microbes. It’s moist, warm, dark and frequently replenished with low amounts of nutrients for these microbes to feed on. Who could have thought that these microbes can lead to pulmonary disease and other health risks such as asthma and bronchitis? Believe it or not it is true and studies have proven that microbes do exist.

The common microbe that was found in high levels was Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen that is linked to pulmonary disease. M. avium and related pathogens were seen clumped together on showerheads in slimy biofilms. Studies shown that the showerheads were more than 100 times the background levels of municipal water when compared to the showerhead when they were taken off. "If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy," said study leader Norman Pace.

These biofilms were swabbed on interior surfaces of 45 showerheads from nine cities in the United States. Researchers found that nearly a third of the showerheads tested were harboring these pathogens. While it is rarely a problem for most healthy people, those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women or those who are fighting off other diseases, can be susceptible to infection.

One showerhead in the study was found with high loads of the pathogen Mycobacterium gordonae. The showerhead was cleaned with a bleach solution, but later tests on the showerhead showed the bleach treatment had actually caused a three-fold increase in M. gordonae, indicating a general resistance of mycobacteria species to chlorine.
Research at National Jewish Hospital in Denver indicates that increases in lung infections in the United States in recent decades from so-called “non-tuberculosis” mycobacteria species like M. avium may be linked to people taking more showers and few¬er baths, said Pace. Water spurting from showerheads can distribute pathogen-filled droplets that float in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs.

So what should I do about taking showers? I really don’t want to be the smelly kid in class that everyone talks about. Well, fellow readers you can always replace the showerhead. Research shows that that plastic showerheads allow for more bacteria to clump together when compared to the metal showerhead counterpart. You can also allow the water to run at the hottest level for a couple of minutes and then turn the water to a tolerable level. Not welling to give up that 1980’s showerhead? Solution, take a bath.

Falkinham III, Joseph, and Michael Iseman. "Mycobacterium avium in a shower linked to pulmonary disease." Journal of Water and Health. 6.2 (2008): 209-11. Print.

Feazel, Leah, Laura Baumgartner, and Kristin Peterson. "Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 12.2 (2009): n. pag. Web. 28 Apr 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Greatttt, thanks for making me feel dirty BEFORE Micro too. But that does make sense that showerheads are an ideal environment for bacteria.
    And I love the video.