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An abundance of organic material and damp surfaces allows microbial life to flourish in places like your kitchen and bathroom.
Despite common misconception, recent studies show that kitchen environments host more microbes than toilets.

Cold Viruses which can be transfered by contact can be picked up by things touched by many people. e.g. salt and pepper shakers, TV remote, computer keyboard.

A 2017 study by a team at the University of Furtwangen in Germany, Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter , Moraxella and Chryseobacterium species | Scientific Reports 7 Article 5791, which used pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes and confocal laser-scanning microscopy, found that a single cubic centimeter of a spong could be packed with more than 54 billion (5 x 1010) bacteria.

They looked at 28 sponge samples, stemming from 14 used kitchen sponges.
They found E. coli, Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Salmonella.
They found five of the ten most abundant OTUs (Operational taxonomic unit) were closely related to other risk group 2 (RG2) species, which can cause illness.
They were Acinetobacter johnsonii, Acinetobacter pittii, Acinetobacter ursingii, Chryseobacterium hominis and Moraxella osloensis.
See chart of all OTU's found

It showed that sanitizing sponges (microwaving and boiling) just changed the mix of pathogens, there were more Chryseobacterium hominis and Moraxella osloensis, supposedly because of less competition from those eliminated in sanitizing.
However, even though what they found were all RG2 bacteria, E. Coli and Salmonella are considered to be more of a health risk than the more abundant OTUs found.

Dr. Egert, who headed the team, wants to compare disinfection methods in a follow-up study.

See chart of all OTU's found

About Acinetobacter, Chryseobacterium and Moraxella

Soil, water, human skin

Clinical Significance:
These organisms are typical opportunistic pathogens that usually only form a threat to critically ill, hospitalized patients. e.g. respiratory infections.

Source: Acinetobacter, Chryseobacterium, Moraxella | Czechoslovak Republic - State Health Institute (NHS) (Statni Zdravotni Ustav - SZU)

Moraxella osloensis is primarily responsible for the stench of dirty laundry, and it may also be the reason that your sponge eventually emits a funky odor.

A good housekeeping study (2015) showed that 3/4 cup of bleach in 1 gal of water (1.5 oz/qt), did the best job of cleaning sponges with 99.9% of germs zapped. However, they only used salmonella, E. coli, and pseudomonas.
Diswashing and Microwaving were not far behind zapping between 99.8 and 99.9% of germs.

A 2005 study "Microorganisms In Kitchen Sponges" published in the Internet Journal of Food Safety showed that reductions from sanitizing in laboratory tests were greater than those in actual kitchen sponges.

Heating to 165° F will kill bacteria.

See also:
- Cleaning a Dirty Sponge Only Helps Its Worst Bacteria, Study Says - The New York Times
- Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter , Moraxella and Chryseobacterium species | Scientific Reports in
Sanitizing kitchen sponges | MSU Extension

Cutting Boards:
A study, "Cutting Board Research" - UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory: (abt. 2000), says,
"We began our research comparing plastic and wooden cutting boards after the U.S. Department of Agriculture told us they had no scientific evidence to support their recommendation that plastic, rather than wooden cutting boards be used in home kitchens."

UCD found, disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied.
New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present.

Germ Prevention:
  • Wash, wash, wash your hands.
    Wash your hands vigorously, for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water after handling laundry, dishes, or any other potentially contaminated house wares.
  • Cough into your sleve
  • Put hand sanitizers around
  • Store and cook food at the proper temperature.
Note: Overuse of antibacterial agents, such as triclosan, which doesn't kill viruses, may lead to resistant forms of bacteria.

6 Places Germs & Bacteria Thrive in Your Home | WebMD
Healthy Habits - Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, San Francisco Department of Public Health
Beware of common household germs - Live Well - NHS Choices
CAHFS | California Animal Health & Food Safety (CAHFS) |
Smart Cleaning Tip #5: The Grime-Free Kitchen | ConsumerReports
Disinfecting viruses in your home | ConsumerReports
Does Freezing Your Jeans Kill Bacteria? - Business Insider
Microbiology: Do low temperatures kill or denature bacteria, or merely slow down their reproduction rate? - Quora

last updated 11 Aug 2017