When it comes to germ hot spots in a hotel room, the TV remote is among the items most heavily contaminated with  67.6 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria, according to a study that University of Houston researchers presented to the American Society for Microbiology.

The study also found high levels of bacterial contamination on the bedside lamp switch (112.7 CFU of aerobic bacteria and 111.1 CFU of fecal bacteria), while some of the highest levels of contamination were found in items from housekeeping carts, such as sponges and mops (at least 500 CFU of aerobic and fecal bacteria were found on the sponges), posing a risk for cross-contamination between rooms.

By comparison, one study of environmental cleanliness in hospitals recommended a top limit of 5 CFU per cubic centimeter squared.

For this most recent hotel room study, University of Houston researchers, along with researchers from Purdue University and the University of South Carolina sampled various surfaces from hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana and South Carolina. They tested the levels of total aerobic bacteria and coliform (fecal) bacterial contamination.

Although the findings are disturbing, researchers stress that it doesn't necessarily mean hotel surfaces will make people sick and the results should not keep people from staying in hotels. Instead, researchers hope that the findings might one day inspire the hotel industry to adopt cleaning and sanitation guidelines invoked through HACCP — Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points — a protocol already used by food and healthcare industries.

The study presented to the American Society for Microbiology is preliminary, and its findings have not yet been peer reviewed.