What you can't see: Are common surfaces making you sick? - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

What you can't see: Are common surfaces making you sick?


Watch video: http://youtu.be/5U9ulk33NQo

You use it to clean your teeth, so is it a good idea to keep your toothbrush next to the toilet?

And, if a dog's mouth really is cleaner than a human's, what will turn-up when we conduct a test to see what kinds of bacteria are living on surfaces almost all of us touch every day?

Dr. DongWon Choi is a micro-biologist at Texas A&M University in Commerce.

He says the majority of pathogens -- or infectious microorganisms -- that live on common surfaces won't do any harm. But he says a small fraction of them -- called true pathogens -- can do damage to the human body.

"Diarrheal disease is the most common form, and if the diarrheal disease is not treated properly, they can escalate into even severe conditions," Dr. Choi said.

We collected a keyboard, a dog toy, a toothbrush, a serving tray from a fast food restaurant and a cell phone. We brought them to Dr. Choi's lab.

One by one, he swabbed the surface of each item then swiped the cells onto clear and red-colored petri dishes.

Dr. Choi says the clear plates are designed to detect any microorganism at all while the red plates grow a bacteria called coliform. "That means those objects are contaminated with fecal matter, feces," he said.

We also took a sample from the pump handle of a local gas station then put Dr. Choi put the plates inside an incubator overnight.

We returned to find some startling results.

Turns out, the toothbrush was actually the cleanest item. The cell phone showed a tiny traces of fecal matter, common according to Dr. Choi.

But from there, the results take a turn.

Fungus is found growing on the gas pump and Dr. Choi says the dog toy -- seen under a magnifying glass -- shows a large amount of microorganism growth, fecal matter, and one cell he says could potentially develop into a serious illness if allowed into the body through places he described as vulnerable places on the face.

"Eyes, ears, nose, mouth," he said.

The keyboard test also revealed fungus growing and fecal matter on the keys.

But it was the serving tray from a fast food chain that proved to be filthiest.

Dr. Choi says fecal matter, staph, and common bath mold were all found from a surface most people would eat on.

How do you protect yourself?

Dr. Choi says because microorganisms need water to survive, allowing your toothbrush to dry out between uses help.

You can also wash your dog toys, avoid eating on serving trays and try not to touch your face.

In the end, experts say washing your hands with soap and water is your best line of defense against getting sick.