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Bacteria and viruses are everywhere, especially where we least expect them. Public bathrooms particularly seem to be their private nest. Here are the most common bugs that you would encounter in a public bathroom.

E Coli

Escherichia Coli (E.Coli) is a gram negative rod that is transmitted through fecal-oral, which means from the anal pathway to the oral pathway. With that said, public bathrooms are the perfect playground for this rod-shaped bacterium. E. Coli tends to cling to nonporous surfaces and can be transmitted via contaminated water and food.  E. Coli is part of our normal intestinal flora. In fact, in our large intestine, it contributes to the formation of vitamin K. However though, if you are exposed to it from an external source, it won’t be so good to you: it is a common cause of bacteria (even bloody bacteria), which also presents with abdominal cramps and vomiting.

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Shigella

Shigella is probably one of the most potent gram negative rod to cause bacterial infections. You only need few colonies to make you fly high and move in the bathroom for days.

The bacteria is passed on through contaminated faeces and, thanks to unwashed hands, through your foods and drinks.

And if you happen to be so generous and share your meals with your mates, they will get infected too. This is one of the reasons why Shigellosis is one of the most common bacterial and diarrheal infections in daycares and public settings (children tend to share their toys, meals, etc.)

The main reason why shigella is such a dangerous bacterium is, because of its virulence factors. The bacterium adheres tightly to the intestinal cells, stimulates proliferation of our immune cells (white blood cells), stimulate mucous production from mucous-secreting cells in the intestine; and all of this yields a detrimental reaction within hours. It is very important to isolate the affected individual and insist on fluid intake, because diarrhea causes dehydration.

Streptococci

39% of toilet seats are infested with streptococci. This bacterial family includes some bacteria that are present on our skin as part of the normal flora. The main mechanism through which they cause infection is if there is a break through the skin, thus affecting the skin integrity and allowing the bacterium to penetrate in the blood. Disease caused by streptococci bacteria include the so common “strep throat”, scarlet fever, erysipelas, pharyngitis and in worst cases, necrotizing fasciitis (“flesh-eating bacteria”).

Staphylococci: this is a bacterial group that is very similar to streptococci from which it differs by mainly one factor: the catalase reaction (Staphylococci possess the catalase enzyme which has the ability to break down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide is a common toxic product used by our body to kill bacteria. Some staphylococci species (Staphylococcus Aureus, Staphylococcus Epidermidis) are normally present on our skin surface, and would only cause a disease if there is even the slightest break (cut, wound, puncture, etc.) on the skin.

By breaking down hydrogen peroxide, staphylococci are able to escape bacterial killing.

Norovirus

Norovirus is a single stranded RNA virus that belongs to the Caliciviridae family. Unlike some other viruses, it is not protected by an enveloped (thus said “unenveloped”). Just like E. Coli, this virus is notorious for severe episodes of diarrhea, but of the non-bloody type. The episodes tend to last from a couple of days to 2 – 3 weeks. 

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