Bad News: Strep is Tougher Than We Thought

After cleaning strep bacteria survivesIn this cold and flu season, most of us are concerned about preventing the spread of infection from one to another. We cover our mouths when we sneeze or cough, and are attentive to lengthy hand-washing with soap and warm water.

Most of all, we don’t want to make one another sick; or that is, we don’t want to get sick ourselves! For those of us who have children or who are in contact with young ones, it will be of special interest to know what University of Buffalo researchers have discovered.

Strep Bacteria: They’re Survivors

Apparently, the bacteria that cause strep throat can be harbored on objects much longer than previously thought. The strep bacteria was found on surfaces of books, toys, and cribs many hours after they had been cleaned.

We previously thought that strep bacteria died rapidly outside the human body, and we contracted the illness through sneezing, coughing, and personal contact. Anders Hakansson, microbiologist and senior author of the study, says, “These findings should make us more cautious about bacteria in the environment.” He believes some items can contain bacteria for as long as several months.

Nurseries and Day Care Centers at Risk

Where was this research conducted? Fittingly, tests were conducted on items from a day care center. Even after cleaning, four out of five stuffed toys tested positive for S. pneumoniae, and other surfaces showed evidence of S. pyogenes. Tests were conducted in the early morning before the center opened, many hours after the last contact with humans.

Researchers say it’s unclear how much infection can be attributed to coming into contact with inanimate objects, but they suggest that cleaning processes may need to change in day care centers and home nurseries.

Perhaps in this winter season, we may need to be a little more stringent with cleaning toys and other hard surfaces. Consider sterilizing waterproof toys in boiling water, or supplementing your cleaning regimen with diluted bleach solution or rubbing alcohol. Let’s all try to stay healthy this cold and flu season!

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