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Common household items could be sources of infections

Common activities such as using a telephone, turning the kitchen faucet on and off, or wringing out a sponge may result in infection with disease agents such as Shigella, Salmonella, the cold virus and other agents, say researchers from the University of Arizona. They report their results today at the 100th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

The degree of transfer of Serratia rubidea (a bacterium similar to Shigella and E. coli, agents of diarrheal disease) and PRD-1 (a bacterial virus similar to a human virus) from common articles in the home to the hand was studied. Transfer efficiency was found to be particularly high for faucet handles (28% and 34%) and phone receivers (39% and 66%). Further studies showed that 34% of the Serratia rubidea as well as the PRD-1 virus could be transferred from a contaminated fingertip to the lower lip.

These results were coupled with the published information regarding the infective dose (number of microbes required to cause an infection) and levels of disease-causing microbes called pathogens found in human fluids such as stool and nasal secretions (snot).

The research was performed by Dr. Patricia Rusin, Dr. Charles Gerba and Sheri Maxwell at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The work was funded by Procter and Gamble.

Examples of several possible scenarios of disease transmission from common articles to humans may be drawn from these results. A telephone receiver could easily serve to transmit disease. Large numbers of Salmonella (a common bacterial cause of diarrhea) may be found in the stool of an infected person. Hence, if even only a tiny amount of stool were transferred from an infected person's contaminated hand to a telephone receiver, the next user could have 107,104 Salmonella cells on the fingertip. If this were placed in the mouth, the person would receive a dose of 36,383 cells which could easily result in disease.

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Contact: Jim Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology
21-May-2000


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