Spreading diarrhea and vomit through the washing machine – The Norovirus propagator in our kitchen

While you read why not listen to my album ‘Electro Baroque‘ (all tracks are also available on iTunes using the link here)? Classical music using modern instruments:

or if you prefer to listen to my electro/techno album ‘Studio Valiumm‘ here are the videos (also on iTunes using the link here):

More info about my music is at the dedicated website www.TRANSFORMATES.com

Spreading diarrhea and vomit through the washing machine may appear to be a slightly inflammatory heading for a serious medical news article but in this case it is very apt.

This subject was drawn to my attention by an article on 28th December 2012 in the Suddeutesche Zeitung under the heading “Washing machines are washing too cold” (the original article in German ‘Waschmaschinen waschen zu kalt” can be found by following the link here). The Alpine News article refered to the results of a recent series of tests carried out by the German testing organisation ‘Stiftung Warentest’ which were published on 27th December 2012 (the original German Article covering the testing of 52 washing machines can be found by following the link here).

In the latest tests carried out by the German testing organisation 14 washing machines were tested for a number of factors ranging from their energy efficiency to whether they actually washed at the temperatures stated on the dial. According to the article the washing machines achieved very good ratings with regard to their energy efficiency allowing them to achieve an Energy Saving Category rating of A+++. However they did this by not washing at the specified temperature (particularly when programmed to wash at 60C). None of the 14 machines tested washed at 60C, they only reached temperatures of 50C or in some cases even 45C, despite being programmed to wash at 60C.

This reduction in washing temperature can lead to important health implications, especially in households where someone is seriously ill. In particular noroviruses and fungal spores can be very hardy and although they struggle to survive at 60C once the washing machine gets down to the 40’s it almost acts as an incubator. This is made worse because many detergents used today have been designed to be environmentally friendly. What this means in practice is that they break-down very easily: many low temperature detergents, especially the colour friendly ones, actually provide the bugs with nutrients. Their very biodegradability turns them into a tasty little meals for microbes, especially if they are warmed up slightly. There is nothing microbes like more than a nice broth – especially if they can swim in it for a long period of time. Long incubation periods are another characteristic of modern washing machines – they just run and run – in an attempt to drive the dirt from the clothes out of sheer boredom. Microbial heaven!

So in this period of hyperactivity for noroviruses we are potentially increasing their dissemination within our households my using very energy-efficient washing machines which take bits of fecal matter and lumps of vomit from Daddy’s undies or handkerchiefs and plonks them onto Jemima’s pillowcase. And just to avoid the bugs enduring too much stress we are providing them with some nice biodegradable nutrients on the way so that they will be nice and fit to infect their new host with super virulence.

Is it a big surprise that the instance of norovirus infections (Winter Vomiting Sickness) appears to be surging at the moment? For any German visitors to this website there was another interesting article on this subject published in 2009 – the link can be found here. It described an unpublished study in which the ability of wash programmes to spread Staphylococcus Aureus from one piece of washing to another is dramatically increased when washing at 30C rather than 60C. This spreading of microbes is also accelerated by the use of low bleach containing washing powders. Antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one of the nasty killers that has been the scourge of many hospitals in recent years – the article goes on to explain that the environmentally friendly washing machine may well be helping to spread such antibiotic resistant strains through modern households.

The battle ground has moved on from the hospital to the domestic kitchen!

Keep a vigilant eye open for those nasty killer bugs. Forewarned is forearmed.

Chris Duggleby. 

 If you are interested in some of the other medically related articles I have prepared please consider reading the following:

1st September 2012: Multiple antibiotic resistance transfered between harmless soil bacteria and the killer pathogens found in hospitals 

25th August 2012: Bubble Tea – German scientists claim to have found traces of carcinogenic chemicals 

18th August 2012: Polar Bear dies of Encephalitis after catching Herpes from a Zebra in Wuppertal Zoo near Düsseldorf 

11th August 2012: Do you have killer rats/mice in your cellar? Over 2000 people attacked in Germany so far this year (Hantavirus Infections at record levels)

11th August 2012: The next pandemic: Will it be created by man? The debate about research using killer viruses like Avian Flu (H5N1) and Ebola 

21st July 2012: How can I get a human liver – without waiting? (Try Göttingen) – German Transplantation Scandal “Livers for Sale”

23rd June 2012: “Doctors are legally allowed to accept gifts from Pharmaceutical Companies” – In Germany

You may also find some other interesting articles by visiting my Alpine News page which can be found here.

Now prepare for an uplifting experience! 

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