-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Jan. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Germs that cause common
illnesses, including ear infections and strep throat, can linger on
surfaces such as cribs, children's toys and books for hours after
contamination -- even after the objects are well cleaned --
according to a small new study.
Researchers suggested that additional steps may need to be taken
to protect children and adults from
Streptococcus pyogenes, particularly in schools, daycare
centers and hospitals.
"These findings should make us more cautious about bacteria in the environment since they change our ideas about how these particular bacteria are spread," study senior author Anders Hakansson, of the University at Buffalo, said in a university news release.
"This is the first paper to directly investigate that these bacteria can survive well on various surfaces, including hands, and potentially spread between individuals," said Hakansson, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Last year, University at Buffalo researchers found that some
bacteria may remain on surfaces for extended periods of time
because they form "biofilms" when infecting human tissues. These
highly sophisticated biofilms are more resilient than other types
In their latest study, published Dec. 26 in
Infection and Immunity, the researchers found that in the
daycare center they examined, four of five stuffed toys were
S. pneumoniae, a leading cause of ear infections in
children. The germ can also lead to dangerous respiratory tract
infections in children and older people, according to the news
Meanwhile, several surfaces, including cribs that had been
cleaned, were contaminated with
S. pyogenes, a bacteria that commonly causes strep throat
and skin infections in schoolchildren and can cause serious
infection in adults.
The testing took place in the morning before the facility opened
so hours had passed since anyone had been inside, the researchers
Although previous studies have shown that bacteria on surfaces
and objects die quickly, the investigators pointed out that those
findings were based on cultures grown in labs.
In the latest study, month-old biofilms of
S. pyogenesfrom contaminated surfaces were quick to infect
mice. The researchers also found that biofilms survived for hours
on people's hands and lingered for hours on books and soft and hard
toys and surfaces.
"In all of these cases, we found that these pathogens [germs] can survive for long periods outside a human host," Hakansson said. "Commonly handled objects that are contaminated with these biofilm bacteria could act as reservoirs of bacteria for hours, weeks or months, spreading potential infections to individuals who come in contact with them."
Although the study found two types of bacteria lingered on
surfaces in a daycare center, it did not show that any infections
resulted among humans.
More research is needed to explore how such contact might spread
germs among people, how substantial the spread is, and what sort of
prevention methods might be required for people who work with
children and in health care settings, the study authors noted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on
stop the spread of germs.
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