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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Showerheads Can Harbor Bacteria Related to Tuberculosis

New research from the University of Washington School of Public Health finds that a cousin of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, called nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), can be found in the aerosol spray from your showerhead.

“You can get quite an ecosystem living in your showerhead,” said Dr. Gerard Cangelosi, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and adjunct professor of epidemiology and global health at the UW School of Public Health.

NTM can cause a rare but potentially serious lung disease that is on the rise in the United States and other developed countries. Most people are not susceptible to NTM, but a small percentage of elderly people and those with other chronic lung diseases or weakened immune systems can be at risk. Dr. Cangelosi and his colleagues studied the home environments of people who had lung disease from a type of NTM called Mycobacterium avium complex. Their study was published Oct. 22 in Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

They found that people with NTM disease had significantly more of these organisms in their shower spray than the control group, but not in other water and soil samples. Dr. Cangelosi emphasized that the study does not prove that NTM in showerheads caused people’s disease, which was diagnosed months or years before the study samples were taken. Learn more.


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