With Certain Men Not Washing Hands, Infection Risk in Hospital Unisex Toilets Rises: Study

Unisex Toilets

A new study suggests that while converting male and female hospital toilets into unisex facilities may alleviate space issues in overcrowded Irish hospitals, it could potentially heighten the risk of infection. This is because men are less likely to practice hand hygiene, increasing the likelihood of bacterial transmission, according to the findings unveiled today.

The research, presented at the ESCMID Global Congress in Barcelona, which focuses on clinical microbiology and infectious diseases, discovered bacteria and fungi, including multi-drug resistant “superbugs,” on various surfaces within hospital toilets in the UK. Patient toilets were found to be the most contaminated, with unisex and disabled (also unisex) toilets exhibiting the highest levels of contamination.

Professor Stephanie Dancer, a consultant microbiologist at NHS Lanarkshire, explored whether toilets without lids disseminate microbes to other bathroom surfaces upon flushing and whether certain types of toilets are more prone to contamination than others.

The move to convert traditional male and female facilities to unisex facilities in some hospitals raises concern that people might be exposed to higher risks of contamination,” said Prof Dancer.

Surveys show women are more likely to clean their hands after bathroom use than men, so we decided to investigate which microbes were present on different surfaces in toilets and how many of them there were.

Our results appear to confirm what is generally thought in society: women clean because their perception of dirt and disgust entices action, whereas men either don’t notice a dirty environment or don’t care. It follows that women are more likely to leave a bathroom ‘clean’, while men assume someone will clean up after them.”

Swabs were collected from toilets across three general hospitals in NHS Lanarkshire. Ten distinct surfaces within six types of toilets were sampled within four hours of cleaning, over four separate days one week apart at each hospital.

Professor Dancer recommends closing the toilet lid before flushing at home to minimize microbial spread.

“Remember to close the lid before flushing and thoroughly wash your hands, then dry them with a clean towel,” she emphasized. “If possible, ventilate the bathroom by opening a window before using the toilet, and this isn’t just for odor control.”

Additionally, during the congress, it was highlighted that antibiotic resistance differs based on the age and gender of the patient, as revealed by data from a recent study conducted in hospitals across Europe, including Ireland. This research gathered information from 29 European countries.

Read More: Click Here