Caseation of human tuberculosis granuloma, light micrograph, photo under microscope.

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder report that regions of the United States where “pathogenic mycobacteria” are prevalent in showerheads are the very same regions where nontuberculous mycobacterial (MTM) lung infections are most common.

Pathogenic mycobacteria can be found on surfaces and can cause infections in humans and animals.

Nontuberculous mycobacteria are naturally occurring organisms often found in water. Lung infections can happen when someone inhales the microorganisms found in nontuberculous mycobacteria.

While these pathogens found in showerheads are often harmless, researchers concluded that “some [of these] potential pathogens can cause MTM lung infections [and should be viewed] as a threat to public health.”

To draw a conclusion, researchers surveyed showerheads in facilities throughout the US as well as Europe. They found that these showerheads “often harbor abundant mycobacterial communities that vary in composition depending on geographic location, water chemistry, and water source.”

“It would seem that the chlorine disinfectants would help kill these pathogens, but apparently that is not happening,” says Brad Evans, CEO of OptiSolve.

While the focus of the study was showerheads, Evans says that from the contaminated showerheads, pathogens may be spread onto walls, floors, fixture controls, and other surfaces in the shower area.

“This is one reason many gyms and universities have showers and locker room areas tested with imaging technologies,” he says. “They make visible the invisible, so cleaning professionals know [more precisely] what surfaces in the shower or locker room need special cleaning attention.”

Controlling the spread of germs at any type of facility can be tough. The speed in which germs spread across a facility is impressively fast. One good way to prevent the spread of germs is to identify where they’re most often located, and then clean those spots often.