June 6, 2008 -- It may come as no surprise to the travel-wise, but public restrooms along America's highways are indeed a haven for potentially dangerous bacteria.
The latest evidence comes from a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
Researchers collected swab samples from places people normally touch in public bathrooms, such as restroom door handles, toilet stall handles, toilet flush handles, sink handles, towel dispenser handles, and blow dryer handles, at travel and rest stops along major interstate highways in the Southwest.
Their results showed the presence of many different bacteria, such as staph bacteria and E. coli. MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a difficult to treat type of staph that can cause potentially life-threatening infection, was found in 10 of the 47 samples taken.
"This study emphasizes the importance of washing your hands after using restrooms," says researcher Keith Sternes, PhD, of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, in a news release. "It is advisable for individuals using any public restroom at rest stops or anywhere should carefully and diligently wash their hands and use a towel or other type of device to cover their hands when exiting the restrooms. This would help to prevent recontamination by pathogenic bacteria and lessen the chances of infection of themselves or others."