Newly released research shows what many have long suspected -- bacteria are plentiful in public restrooms. Using a high-tech genetic sequencing tool, researchers identified 19 groups of bacteria on the doors, floors, faucet handles, soap dispensers and toilets of 12 public restrooms in Colorado -- six men's restrooms and six women's restrooms.

Many of the bacteria strains identified could be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. For example, toilet surfaces were found to have bacteria that are commonly associated with feces.

Skin-associated bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus were found on faucets and other fixtures. And floor surfaces -- which had the most diverse strains of bacteria -- were contaminated with a lot of bacteria found in soil.

The findings are reported by a group of scientists and appear on PLoS ONE. Researcher Gilberto Flores, PhD of the University of Colorado in Boulder was not surprised by the results, saying that most of these bacteria are not harmful. "As long as you wash your hands with soap and water, you will be fine."

Some people may take it a step further, Flores says. "We found dirt-associated bacteria on the toilet handle in one stall, which indicates that people use their foot to flush the toilet."

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