Study finds bacteria surviving longer than originally thought possible on inanimate objects
Bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes found surviving on surfaces
Additional precautions are suggested to avoid bacteria presence
Additional research is needed to confirm infections resulting from surviving bacteria
Many studies have concluded that bacteria that cause ear infections, strep throat, and more serious infections cannot live outside of the human body for very long. This has led to popular belief that these bacteria cannot thrive on inanimate objects like toys or furniture.
Research now shows that Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes can live on surfaces longer than originally suspected. A recent study published in Infection and Immunity suggests that additional precautions should be taken to prevent infections.
“These findings should make us more cautious about bacteria in the environment since they change our ideas about how these particular bacteria are spread. This is the first paper to directly investigate that these bacteria can survive well on various surfaces, including hands, and potentially spread between individuals,” states senior author Anders Hakansson from the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Streptococcus pneumonia is reportedly one of the most common causes of bacterial meningitis in adults and young adults, and is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in adults in the US. It is also one of the top two isolates found in ear infection, otitis media
Streptococcus pyogenes causes numerous cases of strep throat and skin infections in children, but can also infect adults. It is estimated that there are more than 700 million infections worldwide each year and over 650,000 cases of severe, invasive infections.
Anders Hakansson and his associates’ interest in bacteria and the potential to survive on inanimate objects reportedly began during a study last year on bacteria forming biofilms when colonizing human tissue.
“Bacterial colonization doesn’t, by itself, cause infection, but it’s a necessary first step if an infection is going to become established in a human host. Children, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to these infections,” Anders Hakansson states.
A study conducted by University of Buffalo researchers showed that bacteria may remain on surfaces due to its production of a biofilm from interacting with human tissue.
The study showed that researchers found that four out of five stuffed toys examined in a daycare center contained the bacteria streptococcus pneumonia. Additionally, some of the cribs and other surfaces that had been cleaned contained the streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. These tests were conducted before the daycare center had opened; therefore many hours had passed since anyone had been in contact with these surfaces.
Although these bacteria were present in the study conducted, additional research is needed to show whether any infections result from the presence of these bacteria.