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Small Things Considered: That Scary Restroom Microbiota

Newspapers and other media are reporting with regular frequency that restrooms, ATM machine pads, money bills, and other sites carry many different microbes upon their surfaces including potentially pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Headlines call attention to such scary-sounding news and alarm the general public. We can expect that this practice will engender a widespread concern of the public for their safety. The outcry will encourage the implementation of unreliable, unnecessary, and potentially counterproductive “protective” measures. People may, for example, resort to using soaps with bactericidal compounds that have the potential to alter the generally protective normal flora. Inappropriate or non-essential use of bactericides may well accelerate the development and spread of resistance to microbicides and antibiotics within the microbial community. Resistance capabilities, including the upregulation of efflux pumps, can evolve particularly rapidly, and these same mechanisms may also increase resistance to antibiotics.

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