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If you've watched TV adverts for cleaning products, you'd be forgiven for expecting green, slimy creatures to be lurking in your bathroom waiting to pounce!

If only it were that easy. The real bathroom germs have a cloak of invisibility. In other words you can't see them.

What are the real enemies of cleanliness? What can you catch from them and how do you get rid of them?

We've got the low down on bathroom germs.

The real bathroom germs

Most germs, whether on your body or in your bathroom, are harmless. However there are real bathroom pathogens that could make you ill, and these include bacteria, viruses and fungi.

"In the loo there will be other people's germs on the seat, loo flush handle or button and loo roll holder, as well as on the door. These germs could include anything from norovirus to salmonella," warns Dr Lisa Ackerley, known as the Hygiene Doctor and a visiting professor of environmental health at the University of Salford.

1. Gastrointestinal viruses - stomach bugs like norovirus.

They can be passed on through faeces and vomit as well as contaminated food, water or hard surfaces. Contamination may remain on the hands, on the toilet seat or on any other surfaces that an infected person has touched.

"Norovirus likes to jump quickly from one person to another and the damper the atmosphere the more it likes it," explains Professor Sally Bloomfield, chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene.


2. Enteric bacterial pathogens - which are organisms present in the intestines that sometimes cause disease. These include things like E. coli and salmonella. They can be spread by contaminated foods, faeces and vomit. 

3. Skin pathogens - If a skin pathogen comes into contact with cuts or ulcerated skin or the broken skin of someone with a skin condition such as eczema, it can produce local septic infections or even, more seriously, enter the blood stream.

One of the most dangerous can be MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). This is a bacterium that is harder to treat than other strains of Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph) because it's resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

"It can be picked up and colonise the skin and be passed around family members," says Professor Bloomfield. "Problems arise if someone elderly or with a weakened immune system has a wound and it becomes infected with MRSA."

4. Skin fungi - like athlete's foot can be passed from person to person by walking barefoot in the bathroom.

"Showers are an excellent place for it to be spread," says Professor Bloomfield. She also advises not to discard socks in a communal laundry basket as that may spread the fungus. Towels should not be shared either.

5. Respiratory viruses - like those responsible for colds and flu - are shed in large numbers by coughing, sneezing and nose blowing. The bathroom is an ideal environment for them to be spread via hands and hard contact surfaces.

6. Mould and mildew fungi - often found around the shower curtain and base.

"These germs can lurk and grow at room temperature," says Professor Bloomfield. "Keep your shower well-maintained, sort out any cracks in tiles and grout."

She says: "They can cause all sorts of health problems, including making allergies and asthma worse."

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