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Toilet Seats

February 3, 2010

A listener asks: Can you get any diseases from a toilet seat?


The dirt on toilet seat covers…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Amelia Vogel of Washington, D.C. wrote to ask whether any diseases can be spread via toilet seats and whether those paper seat covers actually do any good. We asked infectious disease specialist Jon McCullers of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He says past studies have shown that sexually transmitted diseases cannot be spread via toilet seats. But he and his colleagues recently found traces of antibiotic-resistant MRSA bacteria on some toilet seats at their hospital.

JON McCULLERS (St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital):
So maybe one out of every 30 toilet seats we looked at we could find a pathogenic bacteria, this methocyllin-resistant staph aureus.

He says that’s probably not enough to spread infection among people with normal immune systems. As for toilet seat covers, he says no studies have been done to show if they help prevent infection or not. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.