Life Science Blog

Man’s true best friend?

Some are benign, some are beneficial, some are bad. But the one thing microbes have in common? They’re everywhere.

October 26, 2012

Do you have any idea how many times per day you come into contact with bacteria? I mean, aside from the ones making their homes in your gut, on your skin and nearly everywhere else you can think of. I’m talking about the ones in your pillow, on your toothbrush, in the yogurt you eat for breakfast, on the subway pole you hang onto for dear life, on your office phone, on your keyboard and mouse. They are everywhere. Freaky, isn’t it? Let’s look at some of these omnipresent little buggers.

1. On your toothbrush.

Wait, your toothbrush is supposed to be cleaning your mouth, right? What if I told you that the number of bacteria in your mouth can actually increase after brushing your teeth? That doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop brushing your teeth, because the bacteria that could grow in the absence of regular teeth brushing is some bad stuff. Some of the nastier bacteria your toothbrush can harbor include E. coli, staphylococcus, and streptococcus (of strep throat fame).

Easiest way to avoid the icks: replace your toothbrush frequently, and don’t store it out in the open next to your toilet.

2. In your breakfast yogurt.

These little guys are called “probiotics” and they are what we refer to as “good” bacteria. But they are bacteria, nonetheless. They live in our digestive system and help us extract nutrients from different foods.

3. On the subway pole.

Yuck. We all know you shouldn’t get too close to those poles, but what are you supposed to do when the car is packed and you’re running late. Grab the pole or fall into that weird hipster’s lap when the train lurches? Take comfort in the fact that subways are not the germiest modes of transportation. Turns out buses and even airplanes can actually be worse. This could be due to longer trip times, more food consumption or (most likely) the presence of bathrooms on commercial buses and airplanes.

4. In your office.

Your office is one of the worst places, and not just because you’re trapped there all day doing mindless work. Studies, and even Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, have shown that the bacteria that thrive on your phone, keyboard and mouse are even worse than the ones you find on a public toilet seat. Not great.

Now, this isn’t to say that you need to go buy an industrial-sized container of hand sanitizer or start wearing a mask everywhere you go, but you should definitely be careful and aware of just how common these little guys are. Disinfect your toothbrush and your desk. Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap, and try to avoid touching your face. Bacteria love to get in your body through your mouth, nose and eyes, so don’t make it too easy.

Think about your daily routine a little bit. Anything you think of, the bacteria have thought of first.

About the Author

Christine Kelly

Christine Kelly is coming to SHERP straight from her undergraduate career at The College of New Jersey with a B.S. in biology and a minor in psychology. She loves to read anything and everything, and has had a passion for both writing and science for as long as she can remember. Christine is excited to cross the river into New York City and learn to combine her interests to share with the world.


1 Comment

Meghan Ryan says:

Ohh science, my toothbrush is certainly getting replaced and the relocated – helpful article!

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