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Most bacteria lurk in the home

Cleaning bucket on a small ladder

When we hear the word “bacteria” we think of nothing good. We tend to associate bacteria with “Yuck – get rid of it”. So the protozoa are wiped and scrubbed. We couldn’t live without them.

Bacteria are tiny, measuring just 0.001 millimeters. And they are living beings in their own right, even if they only consist of a single cell. They reproduce by dividing and have everything they need to live: cell machines that produce proteins to supply themselves with energy and genetic material. Bacteria are self-sufficient.

Armed with a mop and scrubber

Most of us probably see bacteria as something gross. They are everywhere – especially in the home. According to “Statista”, the ordinary mop tops the list of bacteria: on average, one billion bacteria per ten square centimeters can be found on the “Saubermacher”. One billion? That’s one followed by nine zeros: 1,000,000,000. Although the well-tried mop should wipe everything clean and pure, it literally attracts bacteria.

The household is an ideal collecting tank for bacteria

The household sponge, which is popular in many countries and is primarily intended to ensure cleanliness and purity in the kitchen, is not that clean itself. If we have already used the household sponge more often, it has 100 million bacteria per ten square centimeters: 100,000,000.

Household sponges and rags provide an ideal environment for bacteria, as they are almost always damp and various food particles collect in their fibers. We then use it to wipe all sorts of surfaces or use it to wash dishes.

Cleaning the sponges with detergent in hot water or in the microwave can reduce the number of bacteria in the short term, but the bacteria have the ability to survive.

One of the most common bacteria found in sponges, for example, belongs to the Acinetobacter group, and these are often resistant to antibiotics. If they enter the body through wounds, for example, they have the potential to trigger diseases such as pneumonia. They have an easy time of it, especially older people and people with weak immune systems.

Someone is rinsing a bowl with a household sponge
Household sponges should be disposed of regularly

Away with the sponge

Sponges should therefore be changed regularly. There is no general recommendation as to when sponges should be changed, but most sponges can be seen or smelled. Then they should definitely end up in the garbage immediately.

Incidentally, there are about 124,000 bacteria per 10 square centimeters in the trash can, 71,000 on the door handle and, according to Statista, around 33,000 bacteria per ten square centimeters on the edge of the toilet.

Surprisingly, there are far more bacteria in the fridge than in the toilet. It’s around 113,000 per ten square centimeters. So for most of us, the toilet seems to be cleaner and more hygienic than the fridge, where we store a lot of our groceries.

A weighty matter

The bacteria that are in and on us weigh quite a bit: around 1.5 to 2 kilograms. In addition to the intestines, the tongue, pharynx, and the pockets in the gums are popular places for bacteria to stay because they offer an almost perfect environment. American researchers found around 4,150 different bacterial genes in the pharynx, almost 8,000 on the tongue, and even more than 14,000 different bacterial genes in the gum pockets, and these can then lead to serious inflammation.

“Good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria

A total of around 5,000 bacterial species are known, and not all of them are dangerous. However, 200 bacteria can cause diseases. These include example, diphtheria and cholera, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. But the other bacteria are quite useful. For example, they help our digestive system to work.

They supply a lot of enzymes to the intestinal flora. They help us to break down our food, break it down and thus support our digestion. Bacteria break down certain carbohydrates in the large intestine and convert them into fatty acids. Our body can then use it as an energy supplier. All these steps require a well-functioning interaction between the bacteria and the intestinal cells.

Bacteria find enough food in our bodies and help us in return. We have a dense bacterial film on our skin that protects us against invaders. Bacteria protect our bodies against pathogens. They also help us with the immune system because they produce important vitamins. We could not survive without bacteria.

The fight against “bad” bacteria

In the case of bacterial infections, the doctor usually prescribes antibiotics. They kill the pathogens or inhibit their growth. They can no longer multiply unless the bacteria develop resistance. Bacteria are extremely inventive.

So that antibiotics can no longer harm them, they change their metabolism, for example, and thus develop dangerous resistances against which antibiotics are powerless. The bacteria themselves are extremely resilient. In this way, some manage to survive 10,000 times the dose of radioactivity that is lethal for us humans.

Bacteria are important for the baby

Bacteria already play an important role at birth. In the birth canal, the newborn comes into contact with the mother’s bacteria. They help the newborn to build up its own immune system – a clever move of nature.

This is different for cesarean births. They do not ingest the mother’s bacteria. C-section children are more susceptible to infections, their immune systems are not as strong as those of children who are born in the normal way. They have to develop their own strategy to ensure their bodies absorb important bacteria and thus protect themselves against various diseases in the first place.

So bacteria don’t deserve to be lumped together and described as “ugh” and “oh, how disgusting”.

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