September 15, 2009

Dangerous microbe thrives in shower heads

Shower heads are a perfect environment for a dangerous bacteria related to tuberculosis, University of Colorado researchers said.

Mycobacterium avium thrives in wet, dark environments and can invade the lungs when sprayed from a shower head, the researchers said in a release Tuesday.

While healthy people are not at risk, the microbes can be dangerous for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, the researchers said in this month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unfortunately, shower heads have nooks and crannies that make them hard to clean. Products with bleach can temporarily remove many microbes, but they just grow back, Colorado researcher Leah Feazel said.

Feazel recommends changing shower heads two to four times a year or switching to a metal shower head and letting the water run a few minutes to flush out pathogens. Bathing is a option because the water droplets are too large to penetrate the lungs, she said.