A lovely story about McDonald’s and fecal material circulated on my Facebook feed a week ago. Apparently, a researcher with London Metropolitan University swabbed the ordering touchscreens of eight McDonald’s in London and Birmingham. The research team grew a whole host of bacteria, including a boatload of normal gut flora. In other words, bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tracts and help us maintain digestive and immune system functions, come out in our poop. If we don’t wash our hands sufficiently, we transfer these organisms to objects. Like McDonald’s touchscreens.
This isn’t news. This isn’t specific to McDonald’s. Although I’d like to say “never eat at McDonald’s,” my reasons have nothing to do with their living touchscreens. If I swabbed your cellphone, I guarantee I’d be able to grow gut bacteria from it.
One of the finest quotes I acquired during my medical school training is: “If shit were red, the world would be pink.”
Let that one sink in. And then go wash your hands.
For folks with functioning immune systems, the microbial smearage is, in general, no big deal. Heaven forbid, if we forget to wash our hands before snarfing down our Big Mac and fries, at best our immune systems attack any bacteria they don’t like and we get the usual post-McD’s three days of nausea and diarrhea due to the excessive load of saturated fat. (What? That doesn’t happen to you?) At worst, we contract norovirus (the researchers evidently weren’t interested in viral cultures) and miss a couple days of life/work/school due to the “stomach flu.”
For folks with non-intact immune systems (for example, people living with diabetes or HIV disease, and rheumatology patients on disease-modifying drugs), this “study” doesn’t add much except STRESS! Wash your hands, people. Wash after you go to the bathroom. (and use a paper towel to turn off the water or open the door if you’re out in public) Wash before you eat. Wash before you touch your face.
The quotes in the article are terrible and misleading. I don’t fault the researcher. Missing information includes whether the cultured Staph aureus was antibiotic resistant or antibiotic sensitive.
The takeaway message is WASH YOUR HANDS not McDONALD’S IS A TEEMING CESSPOOL. Although, it is. But so is the grocery store and the bus and the bank and your kitchen sink.
image = Shutterstock illustration ID 1042543318