A recent study published in the European Radiology journal has revealed that a man’s beard has more bacterial pathogens than the dirtiest part of a dog’s coat.
The study never intended to condemn men’s beards for their dirtiness. The initial concept of the study was to test if it was possible for humans and non humans to use the same MRI scans that were used previously on dogs. In order to carry out this study, a team of researchers has recently analysed skin samples and saliva of 18 bearded men aged between 18 and 76 years old and saliva and coat samples from thirty dogs in several European hospitals. The samples were taken from German shepherd and Schnauzer dog breeds. The dog samples were taken from the fur around the dog’s shoulder blades. As the researchers noted, this is the area where many skin infections develop.
Not the prettiest results
After the researchers analysed the samples it turns out that men’s beards contain more potentially infectious bacteria than can be found on the fur coats of our four legged friends. Another observation from the study is that men contaminate the scanners more than dogs once they leave the scanner. “The bacterial load was significantly lower in MRI scanners used by dogs and humans, compared to scanners used exclusively by humans,” states the study.
More precisely, tests have shown that the 18 human participants had “high microbial levels” on their skin and in their saliva while only 23 out of the 30 dogs showed these levels.
From this, albeit small, sample, seven men and four dogs tested positive for pathogenic microbes for humans. Among them was Enterococcus faecalis, a common intestinal bacterium known to cause urinary tract infections. Or Staphylococcus aureus, responsible for food poisoning and, in extreme cases, life-threatening infections when it enters the bloodstream.
In the end, using the same MRI scans for dogs and humans does not make it more dangerous for humans. In fact as mentioned in the study, “there is no reason to believe that women would be home to less bacterial agents than bearded men”.
However, problems with hospital hygiene could potentially pose an important risk for the patient’s health. The simple fact of disinfecting a surface – as was the case here after each passage of an individual – is not enough to reduce the risk of bacterial transmissions.