Taking a shower has always been naturally associated with keeping the body clean and maintaining better hygiene and health. However, this very act can actually lead to the development of relatively serious diseases — unless preventive measures are taken to keep this from happening, both at home or in facilities where people have access to water that runs through pipes and shower heads (such as hospitals, hotels, elderly care facilities, spas, and others).

Researchers at Lancaster University have recently discovered a bacteria called mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in nine out of 10 domestic showers tested across the UK. The bacteria are a known cause of Johne's disease among animals (particularly in cattle) as well as Chron's disease in humans.

How can it affect your health?

Chron's disease is a long-term health condition that causes the digestive tract's lining to become inflamed. The condition can result in diarrhoea, nausea, weight loss, and even ulcers (which can be particularly painful as food passes through them in the intestine). 

In the UK, Chron's disease affects around 250,000 people. While most individuals who develop the disease are genetically disposed to it, many sufferers in different parts of the country are found to have gotten it from inhaling fine water spray from rivers. Runoff from agricultural lands with livestock that are infected with the bacteria in question brings the organisms to the rivers, which are now finding their way into domestic water supplies. According to health experts, almost every individual diagnosed with Chron's disease has also been found to be infected with the bacteria.

What can be done?

A professor in Lancaster University's Faculty of Health and Medicine, Roger Pickup, has stated that mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis can be found in the biofilm in a shower tube. They are then washed off when water is turned on, causing the bacteria to come through in the shower water.

One recommended solution to avoid contracting the bacteria that could trigger Chron's disease is to let the water from the shower run for a short period of time before use, especially if the shower has not been used for some time. This will allow any bacteria to go down the drain instead of coming into contact with the person using the shower.  

This practice is a similar precautionary measure applied to Legionnaires' disease, a potentially fatal type of pneumonia which is caused by the Legionella bacteria which can also flourish in water systems and come into contact with people when they inhale water vapour or fine spray from contaminated water.

Aside from this practice, locals can also make use of water quality testing kits which make it simple for residents to determine the safety and quality of the water coming into their homes. The testing procedure will simply involve filling a sterile bottle with water from hot taps and showers, informing the testing kit provider that the water sample can be picked up, and waiting for them to provide the results of the laboratory analysis. 

Likewise, homeowners would benefit from using quality supplies like the Shower Head Pluscleaning solution for bathroom fixtures and finishes. The product is proven effective in disinfecting areas in care homes, hospitals, hotels and other places against the Legionella bacteria.

+Duncan Hollis