What common item harbors “dangerous” microbes today? Gas pump handles

Pumping gas

We should have a recurring series on overblown stories about the microbiology of the built environment, particularly on findings that “X” common item harbors bacteria that might kill you.  So far in this vein we’ve discussed dishwashers, money, fast-food playgrounds, hospital curtains, HVAC systems, hospital scrubs, and pillows.  Some of these are good stories, but most qualify as scare-mongering, often with a conflict of interest.

Here’s a story that caught my eye today.  Researchers reported that fuel nozzle handles could harbor dangerous microbes.  Further investigation revealed the following:

Nothing could be found about what microbes were actually tested and how (if) their pathogenicity was determined

MRSA was mentioned in several stories.  Turned out that MRSA wasn’t actually found at all, but some professor in Australia mentioned that based on studies from trains in Japan, maybe MRSA *could* be found on fuel nozzle handles.

The study was funded by Kimberley-Clark Professional, the maker of a large number of disinfection and hygiene products.

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Might fuel nozzles harbor dangerous microbes?  Sure, but we don’t know that from this work and it’s certainly not reason to panic.

 

David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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