Even clean toys, cribs harbour bacteria: study

New York, Dec 27: Did your toddler suffer from pain in the ear or develop skin rashes when back from day care centre today?

The bacteria causing these infections may actually be living on the surface of his favourite toy!

Clean toys, books and cribs carry two common bacteria that cause ear infections and skin infections, says a new research, thus discarding the conventional wisdom that such bacteria cannot live for long outside the human body.

Streptococcus pneumoniae – a leading cause of ear infections in children – and Streptococcus pyogenes – that causes strep throat and skin infections – do persist on surfaces on toys, books or cribs in settings such as schools, daycare centers and hospitals, said researchers at University at Buffalo, New York.

“This is the first paper to directly investigate that these bacteria can survive well on various surfaces, including hands, and potentially spread between individuals,” said senior author Anders Hakansson.

In developing countries like India, where fresh water, good nutrition and common antibiotics may be scarce, S. pneumoniae often leads to pneumonia and sepsis, killing one million children every year.

S. pyogenes commonly causes strep throat and skin infections in school children but also can cause serious infection in adults.

The researchers did testing on toys in the morning hours just prior to the day care centre opening so that there was no human contact.

They found that four out of five stuffed toys tested positive for S. pneumonaie and several surfaces, such as cribs, tested positive for S. pyogenes, even after being cleaned.

Children, the elderly and others with not-so-strong immune systems are especially vulnerable to these infections, the researchers said in a paper published in the journal Infection and Immunity.

“Commonly handled objects that are contaminated with these biofilm bacteria could act as reservoirs of bacteria for hours, weeks or months, spreading potential infections to individuals who come in contact with them,” the research paper added.

IANS