FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Pacifiers are universally popular with new parents and their infants, but there's one big problem with them: They can get dirty. Very dirty.
Researchers report that they found a wide range of disease-causing bacteria, fungus and mold on pacifiers that young children had been using.
They added that pacifiers can often grow a slimy coating of bacteria -- called a biofilm -- that actually alters the normal bacteria in a baby or toddler's mouth. That biofilm can spur inflammation and potentially increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal problems such as colic or even ear infections.
In fact, the same types of bacteria found on a common pacifier have been linked to cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases, said study author Dr. Tom Glass, a professor of forensic sciences, pathology and dental medicine at Oklahoma State University.
Glass said the problem with pacifiers applies also to removable orthodontic appliances such as retainers and even athletic mouth guards and dentures. Pores in the plastic can capture fungi, bacteria, food and water, creating a perfect spot for bacterial and fungal growth and infection, he explained.
The research was scheduled to be presented Friday at the American Society for Clinical Pathology annual meeting in Boston. The data and conclusions of the study should be considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The study authors collected 10 pacifiers from healthy infants at a pediatric clinic. They chopped up the nipples and shields finely, and put them in laboratory dishes designed to allow any bacteria or fungi that was present on the pacifiers to grow.
After 24 and 48 hours, the investigators compared the growth around the used pacifiers to the growth in dishes in which chopped-up new, unused pac
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