If you are using a 'shared' bathroom, be careful about where and how you store your toothbrush. Researchers have found that toothbrushes can serve as a vector for transmission of potentially pathogenic organisms.
The researchers found evidence of transmission of fecal coliform bacteria in communal bathrooms.
"The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora," said Lauren Aber from Quinnipiac University in the US.
For the study, all toothbrushes were collected from participants using communal bathrooms, with an average of 9.4 occupants per bathroom in Quinnipiac University.
At least 60% of the toothbrushes were found to be contaminated with fecal coliforms.
"Using a toothbrush cover does not protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses," Aber said.
"Better hygiene practices are recommended for students, who share bathrooms both in the storage of their toothbrush but also in personal hygiene," Aber added.
Toothbrushes are a known source of contamination. Scientists have suspected since the 1920s that the re-use of toothbrushes could be a possible source of infection in the oral cavity.
There are several potential sources of contamination of one's toothbrush -- toothbrushes stored open in the bathroom are especially vulnerable to contamination with material from the toilet or contamination from other occupants.
This research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, Louisiana.