While daily bathroom showers provide invigorating relief and a good cleansing for millions of Americans, they also can deliver a face full of potentially pathogenic bacteria, according to a surprising new University of Colorado at Boulder study.
The researchers used high-tech instruments and lab methods to analyze roughly 50 showerheads from nine cities in seven states that included New York City, Chicago and Denver. They concluded about 30 percent of the devices harbored significant levels of Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen linked to pulmonary disease that most often infects people with compromised immune systems but which can occasionally infect healthy people, said CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Norman Pace, lead study author.
It's not surprising to find pathogens in municipal waters, said Pace. But the CU-Boulder researchers found that some M. avium and related pathogens were clumped together in slimy "biofilms" that clung to the inside of showerheads at more than 100 times the "background" levels of municipal water. "If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy," he said.
The study appeared in the Sept. 14 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors of the study included CU-Boulder researchers Leah Feazel, Laura Baumgartner, Kristen Peterson and Daniel Frank and University Colorado Denver pediatrics department Associate Professor Kirk Harris. The study is part of a larger effort by Pace and his colleagues to assess the microbiology of indoor environments and was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Research at National Jewish Hospital in Denver indicates that increases in pulmonary infections in the United States in recent decades from so-called "non-tuberculosis" mycobacteria species like M. avium may be linked t
|Contact: Norman Pace|
University of Colorado at Boulder