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Friday, April 20, 2018

City vs County: Which mice spread life-threatening human illnesses?


You never know where or when inspiration will strike. Today it happened to strike following a very large cup of regular coffee and finding the topic for this week’s blog. It’s possible that since I generally only drink decaf, that the inspiration was more of a caffeine buzz. Either way, I was excited!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up on a farm. In fact, I am proud to say that both sides of my families come from farming backgrounds. My grandfather was a world renowned livestock auctioneer. I grew up playing in barns, often getting up to no good. I made pets of any farm animal we had and certainly spent my fair share of time finding ways to catch or trap “pests” aka mice, raccoons etc. As a country girl, you learn to deal with all sorts of animals, amphibians, reptiles and insects. You don’t have to like them and may try to avoid them, but I can say with complete honesty that I did not grow up with a fear of any of them.

One would think this would be true of all country kids. Nope. My mother is deathly afraid of snakes.  There are a couple of pranks we have pulled on her that without a doubt would have gone viral. I also had an uncle who hated mice. I cannot confirm if he simply HATED them or if in fact he was afraid of them. Regardless, there is one incident of him hitting a mouse with a gavel (he too was a well-known auctioneer) when a mouse popped out from under his socks in his dresser.

You may wonder why I bring up mice. It goes back to my inspiration for this week’s blog. A study that was published in mBio that looked at house mice and their ability to carry human illnesses. We know that when spring cleaning we need to be cautious about cleaning mouse droppings because of Hantavirus, but now we need to be concerned about more than just Hantavirus. The researchers collected 416 mice over a year and analyzed the droppings of the captured mice.  They we able to identify 149 distinct species of bacteria including those most commonly linked to intestinal upset; C. difficle, E. coli, Shigella and Salmonella.  The researchers also looked at the viral load of the mouse poop and found 36 separate viruses. None of the viruses found were known to infect humans, but were known to infect dogs, chickens and pigs suggesting that there may be some cross over.

I guess it’s true when we say mice are dirty.  Based on this study, researchers are recommending that if you find mouse droppings around your food that you throw it out, unless perhaps you can properly disinfect the packaging (if it’s of a non-porous substrate, like tin cans).

Of interest, the study was conducted in the city, NYC to be exact. Being a country bumpkin, I wonder if country mice would show the same results. I’m going to believe they wouldn’t. While it may not be a proven fact, country kids have better immune systems because we play in the dirt (and manure) from a pretty young age!


Bugging Off!

Nicole




Friday, April 13, 2018

Rub my feet?


I love having my feet rubbed. It’ more relaxing than my Friday night glass of wine, more satisfying than eating chocolate, candy or chips and dip. Perhaps most importantly, it’s lower in calories so I don’t hate myself in the morning and the person rubbing my feet is exerting energy and burning calories. Basically it’s an all-around win-win. I love having my feet rubbed so much that I have perfected the ability to work in “Rub my feet?” to virtually any conversation and I have found that the threat of having to rub my feet can keep a hockey team of 9 year olds under control (threatening to watch princess movies also works if you need an alternative option).

It was with a bit of personal disappointment that I came across a recently published article “Evaluation of a shoe sole UVC device to reduce pathogen colonization on floors, surfaces and patients” where researchers spiked the soles of 200 pairs of shoes, implanting 3 strains of bacteria and a non-toxigenic strain of Clostridium difficile. The shoes were then randomly assigned to be either exposed to UV-C radiation for 8 seconds or act as controls with no exposure.  According to the researchers, UV-C significantly reduced shoe sole contamination with all bacterial species they tested. Additionally, shoes that were exposed to the UV-C device also significantly reduced the contamination on all floor types and with all species of bacteria tested.

So what’s my take? The study is interesting, but the results are really not surprising. In the last several years there has been quite a bit of research on various UV-C technologies that has shown they are capable of decreasing the bacterial burden on surfaces. It’s entirely logical that these devices would be effective in disinfecting shoes. Are the soles of shoes the areas we should be concerned with disinfecting? Certainly, they could be a potential fomite that are carrying pathogens from place to place, but for now I’ll continued to be more concerned about properly disinfecting objects like stethoscopes, and other hospital equipment which we know for fact can lead to transmission of pathogens. Besides, if I think the soles of shoes (or feet) are a true concern for transmitting pathogens, how can I in good conscious ask someone to rub my feet? These socks need to be used you know!!


Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spring showers leave bath toys in the dust



According to the calendar, spring has arrived.  According to the temperature outside, I would say that Mother Nature is a bit confused. Today started out at -4C (25F) with snow on my vehicle. In my neck of the woods, the average temperature ranges from a low of 4C (39F) to a high of 12C (53F). It’s April, I do not expect or want to see snow. It’s spring! The birds are singing, plants are starting to show signs of life and I have started spring cleaning and wardrobe changing. For me this also means moving from socks and boots to my favorite bare feet and shoes. My exposed ankles were not loving the cold wind this morning! 

Spring cleaning is quite literally a “thing”.  So much so that last year a survey was conducted online among 1,015 U.S. adults, ages 18+. The survey showed that 66% of respondents participate in spring cleaning. Most people reported that spring cleaning leads to a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of rejuvenation after clearing out all the clutter. Of the areas to be targeted for the most thorough cleaning, the bathroom tends to be the room that gets the most thorough clean (62%), followed by the kitchen at (60%) while bedrooms are close behind at 58%.

After reading a study that was just published in Biofilms and Microbiomes, I’m glad to hear that our bathrooms are the areas that get the most attention, but suspect some of the germiest items are overlooked!  I mean who thinks that our beloved rubber ducky would be the harbinger of doom. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your train of thought, scientific curiosity knows no bounds.  Those who have a passion to understand biofilms know that any plastic material that is dunked in bathwater provide ideal conditions for bacterial and fungal growth. Yes, those cute little squeezie toys that we so love to suck water into and then squirt it out to peals of belly laughs from our sweet little loved ones can hold dense growths of bacteria and fungi not to mention murky water that may also come squirting out.

Over an 11 week period the researchers exposed some of the toys to clean water and others dirty water containing soap and body fluids.  The results were unappetizing to say the least. When they cut the toys open they found between 5 and 75 MILLION cells per cm2. Regardless of water, 80% of the toys were found to contain potentially pathogenic bacteria including Pseudomonas and Legionella.  All toys exposed to the dirty water were found to have fungal contamination, but don’t think that made the “clean-water” toys better….60% of them were found to have fungal contamination.

Should we ban the duck?  I’m not sure about that, but then my son has hit the age where he’s not playing with bath toys. If I were to do it again, I may consider twice what types of toys I buy to play with or at the very least try to find a way to plug any holes so that water cannot get inside!  Why do I say that?  Well, as the saying goes…a picture is worth a thousand words….and the picture for this blog are from my son’s bath toys that we still have that have not be played with in well over a year.   Who know a Hippo could be so gross looking inside!


Bugging Off!

Nicole

PS – you can be assured, the bath toys are being swept out in this year’s spring cleaning!