Study Finds Bacteria Lasts Longer on Surfaces Than Initially Thought

Study Finds Bacteria Lasts Longer on Surfaces Than Initially Thought

At Managed Technical Solutions, Hillsboro’s premiere cleanroom garment provider, we’re understand the hidden dangers behind lingering bacteria. But it’s not just in a lab setting that hidden bacteria can present a serious risk. In fact, bacteria may linger in places for longer than most people would suspect. The fact that bacteria can remain on surfaces presents a real problem for parents and kids.

As parents of daycare and school-aged children know too well, the fall season usually means dealing with the constant challenge of germs and the illnesses they bring. A failure to fully appreciate the finer points of hand washing and a willingness to put anything of interest into their mouths means children face a higher risk of germ exposure than adults who don’t touch anything without immediately cleansing their hands with antibacterial hand sanitizer. Couple increased exposure with underdeveloped immune systems and the runny noses and feverish chills parents deal with this time of year becomes clearly understood.

Daycare centers and classrooms long ago developed the reputation as being a breeding ground for bacteria and bugs that send little ones home as carriers of all manner of nasty viruses. Despite what overly optimistic parents may have hoped, the results of a new study seem to have confirmed these worse held suspicions.

According to researchers at the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, germs that cause common illnesses such as strep throat and ear infections can survive on surfaces like toys, books, cribs, and desks for hours after the initial contamination. Even more troubling, these types of bacteria can remain on these surfaces even after the objects are cleaned, according to the study.

Based on these finding, researchers are calling for additional steps be taken to protect children and adults from Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae – the two strains of bacteria responsible for these types of illnesses – in daycare centers, schools, and hospitals.

The results of this study were published in the journal Infection and Immunity.

A Greater Risk

In their initial findings, researchers at Buffalo University discovered that some forms of bacteria may be able to linger on surfaces for prolonged periods of time due to a type of “biofilm” they form as part of the infection process. These highly sophisticated films provide these types of bacteria with a greater resiliency than other similar types of bacteria.

Building off of this initial data, researchers discovered that four of the five toys the examined at a local daycare center were infected with the bacteria S. pneumoniae, the leading case of ear infections among children and seniors.

Further examination found that several cribs that had recently been wiped down and cleaned still contained traces of the bacteria S. pyogenes, a common cause of strep throat and skin infections among school-aged kids. This same bacteria can also caused severe skin infections among adults.

Researchers conducted their testing prior to the daycare’s opening, meaning that several hours had passed since anyone had previous entered the center.

While previous studies have found that bacteria living on surfaces and objects tend to die off quickly, researchers pointed out that those findings were based on bacteria cultures grown in labs, not from bacteria that had developed from human contact.

This current study found that biofilms from the two strains of bacteria were able to infect mice exposed to contaminated surfaces months after they had been initially collected. Researchers also discovered that the biofilms survived for hours on people’s hands, books, toys, and hard surfaces. These findings present the possibility that bacteria could still potentially cause infection months after the initial contamination.

Further Precautions Needed

While the study found that bacteria lingers far longer than previously suspected, researchers were quick to point out that these initial findings did not show that individuals exposed to the bacteria had a higher risk of infection. Researchers also stated that further research is needed to explore how increased contact with infected objects may spread these types of bacteria.

For parents worried about their child’s risk of exposure, researchers recommend that parents continue to place a premium on maintaining or improving their child’s hygiene habits. This means frequently washing their kids hands throughout the day in addition to before meals, and maintaining their oral hygiene, as children and adults suffering from gum disease have a higher risk of developing additional infections.

Since reducing a child’s risk of exposure to harmful bacteria seems increasingly unlikely, parents should also focus on activities – such as improving their child’s diet – that help to strengthen the immune system in order to reduce their child’s risk of infection.

So while you don’t need to send your children to school wearing a cleanroom garment, it’s important to remember that infectious bacteria is a lot harder to get rid of than you might think.

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