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Bacteria May Lurk on Your Showerhead

Researchers Say Some Microorganisms on Showerheads May Be Small Enough to Be Inhaled
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Searching for Germs continued...

Some of the particles coming from showerheads, he says, are tiny enough to be inhaled into the airways.

In the paper, the researchers write: "We conclude that showerheads may present a significant potential exposure to aerosolized microbes, including documented opportunistic pathogens."

Paces adds that the potential health risk needs more research, particularly in patients with compromised immune or pulmonary systems, such as those with AIDS or emphysema.

The new study gives a better sense of exactly how germy the showerheads are, Pace says, than earlier research, which focused on culture-based techniques rather than genetic sequencing.

Until more research is done, Pace suggests inspecting your showerhead. If it's full of crusty crud, he says, "Get a new showerhead." He prefers all metal models to plastic, saying that plastic is more conductive to microorganisms sticking.

His hygiene advice: While a normal, healthy person need not be concerned, he says those with immune system or lung problems may want to take baths instead of showers.

Not so fast on ditching your shower, says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and president and CEO of the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y., who reviewed the study for WebMD.

"Nobody should be changing their personal hygiene preferences based on this article," Glatt says.

The research, he says, is a basic science investigation. "Before a basic science study can be translated to practical clinical advice, there needs to be a lot of additional scrutiny. Mycobacterium avium and the other non-tuberculous mycobacteria are ubiquitous," he says.

"For healthy people, they don't represent a significant pathogen," he says. "For the immunocompromised, he says, they are more of a concern. Still, he says, more study is needed to see if the findings have importance clinically and would warrant new advice to people.

Meanwhile? "Cleaning the showerhead is a reasonable thing to do."

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