While half of the 10 used pacifiers were lightly contaminated, the other 5 were heavily contaminated (with levels reaching as high as 100 million colony-forming units per gram).
The researchers cultured 40 different species of bacteria from the 10 used pacifiers. One pacifier was contaminated with four different strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Yet, the unused pacifiers were found to be sanitary (with colony growths in the dishes less than 100 colony-forming units per gram).
What was particularly concerning, said Glass, was that many of the bacteria growing from the used pacifiers were resistant to commonly used antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin.
The development of such resistance to certain antibiotics does not cause the organism to be more infectious than other strains that have no antibiotic resistance, but it can make the infection more difficult to treat.
Glass doesn't recommend that parents use pacifiers to calm their babies and toddlers. "After doing the study, I say why take a risk? The key is to recognize that pacifiers can cause illness," he said. "In the long run, it may be that what you do now [using a pacifier] may have a lot to do with whether a child ends up developing atherosclerosis or type 2 diabetes."
For those who still choose to use pacifiers, Glass recommends soaking them daily in a denture-cleaning agent and carrying extras so a dropped or soiled pacifier doesn't have to be replaced without first cleaning it thoroughly at home.
He also recommends throwing out pacifiers after two weeks of use because wear increases the bacteria-trapping porousness of the plastic.
Some experts are not concerned about pacifiers carrying disease-causing germs.
Dr. Ben Hoffman, medical director of the Children's Safety Center at Oregon Health and Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, said he can't think of an infection a child has had that he would
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