redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
You might not need to throw out your tooth brush after recovering from a sore throat after all, according to a new study presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) in Washington DC.
While some health care professionals tell patients — especially children — to replace their toothbrushes after suffering from a cold, the flu, or a case of strep throat, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston advise that doing so might not be necessary after all.
The UTMB researchers attempted to grow group A Streptococcus (GAS), the bacteria responsible for strep throat, on toothbrushes that had previously been exposed to the bacteria in laboratory conditions. They reported that the pathogen grew on the brushes, and that the microbes remained there for at least 48 hours.
However, two brand-new toothbrushes that had not been exposed to GAS and served as controls also grew the bacteria, despite having been taken out of their packaging under sterile conditions. An adult-sized toothbrush grew “gram-negative bacilli” while a child-sized one grew “gram-positive cocci, which was identified as Staphylococcus.”
From there, they attempted to grow GAS on toothbrushes used by children who had strep throat. They recruited 14 patients that had been diagnosed with strep throat, 13 patients that had sore throats but not strep, and 27 healthy patients, all of whom were between the ages of two and 20.
Each subject was told to brush their teeth for one minute using a new toothbrush, and those brushes were then placed in a sterile cover and transported to a laboratory for testing. They were only able to recover GAS from one toothbrush, and it had belonged to a patient that did not have strep. They were unable to grow GAS on the other brushes, but were successful in growing other common mouth bacteria.
“This study supports that it is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat,” explained study co-author Judith L. Rowen, an associate professor of pediatrics in the UTMB Department of Pediatrics.
However, Lauren K. Shepard, another co-author of the study as well as a resident physician in the UTMB Department of Pediatrics, said that the study was small and that additional research with more participants would be necessary in order to confirm that GAS does not grow on toothbrushes used by children suffering from strep throat.