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More germs found on desk tops than toilet seats

Microbiologist Charles Gerba has made a career out of scaring people with news of how dirty seemingly innocent surfaces can be.  Dr. Gerba has taken media on germ tours of kitchens, bathrooms, and offices, and now in his new research study he finds that office desks have 400x more bacterial colonies than toilet seats.  Moreover, he found that women’s desks generally have 4x more bacteria than men’s.  He attributes this to women having more makeup and food products in their desks, as well as having greater contact with small children.

Well, before we all become totally grossed out and paranoid, lets think for a minute about this.  If there are so many bacteria all around us (even on our desks) and we’re generally not sick, then I guess we shouldn’t all rush out to buy bleach and sanitizers.  Other studies suggest that sanitizers disrupt the natural ecosystem around us, creating resistant organisms that are harder to kill.

Personally, I think that precautions should be taken to reduce transmission of viruses and bacterial infections (especially in the hospital environment) but that it is unreasonable, and perhaps even harmful, to wage an indescriminate war on all bacteria everywhere.

If your loved ones are sick, minimize your exposure to their droplets, wash your hands frequently, and sanitize surfaces that they are in direct contact with.  Otherwise, if you’re feeling well, I wouldn’t worry too much about bleaching your desk surface.

As one microbiology lab says,

“Support bacteria.  It’s the only culture some people have.”This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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