Your Showerhead Is Really Gross—and It Might Make You Sick

iStock.com/rschlie
iStock.com/rschlie

If the ick factor alone doesn't motivate you to clean your shower regularly, the results of new research published in the journal mBio may change your mind. As IFL Science reports, your showerhead is a hotbed of microorganisms, some of which could pose a threat to your health.

For the study, citizen scientists from Europe and the U.S. swabbed their showerheads and submitted the samples to researchers. After sequencing the DNA of the more than 650 samples, the Showerhead Microbiome Project team found worlds of microbes thriving on the very things we use to bathe ourselves with each day.

While most of these organisms aren't harmful, the researchers did detect some types of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), which can cause lung infections. When water vapor fills your shower, mycobacteria become aerosolized and therefore easier to breathe. While NTM doesn't lead to illness when inhaled in most cases, infections can bring about shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss, especially in people with weak immune systems. Researchers found that areas with the highest concentrations of showerhead mycobacteria—Florida, New York, and Southern California—are also "hot spots" of NTM lung disease.

Mycobacteria live in biofilm, a.k.a. the scum that coats the front of your showerhead. The study found that the microbes are more likely to grow on metal showerheads than plastic ones—likely because the chemicals in plastic support more diverse microbial communities that stop any one bacteria from taking over. The mycobacteria were also most common in U.S. households that use municipal water supplies. The water in these showers is usually chlorinated, and because mycobacteria are somewhat resistant to the disinfectant, those microbes tend to spread in place of the bacteria that are killed off.

The study's data could be used by doctors and public health officials to better understand the causes of NTM. In the meantime, set aside a few minutes to wipe the slime off your showerhead.

[h/t IFL Science]

'Lost Species' of Tiny, Rabbit-Sized Deer Photographed in Vietnam for the First Time in 30 Years

Global Wildlife Conservation
Global Wildlife Conservation

The silver-backed chevrotain, also called the Vietnamese mouse-deer, is elusive. It's so elusive that scientists had feared it was extinct after none had been photographed for decades. But as The Washington Post reports, the first images taken of the mammal in nearly 30 years prove that the species is still alive in the woods of Vietnam.

No larger than small dogs, chevrotains are the tiniest ungulates, or hoofed animals, on Earth. They have vampire-like fangs and skinny legs that support their bodies. Silver-backed chevrotains are characterized by the silver sheen of their tawny coat.

The tiny population native to Vietnam has been devastated by poachers in recent decades. That, and the animal's natural shyness, make it incredibly difficult to study. Before this most recent sighting, the last time scientists had recorded one was in 1990.

Global Wildlife Conservation, the Southern Institute of Ecology, and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research teamed up in hopes of documenting the lost species. Researchers interviewed residents and government forest rangers in the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang about the silver-backed chevrotain, looking for tips on where to find one. Residents said that while populations had been hit hard by hunting, the animals were still around.

Based on this local ecological knowledge, scientists set up three camera traps in the Vietnamese woods. In just five months, they captured 275 photographs of the little mouse-deer. They then installed 29 additional cameras and snapped 1881 new images in that same length of time.

“For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination," Global Wildlife Conservation associate conservation scientist An Nguyen said in a statement. "Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”

Now that a silver-backed chevrotain population has been located, researchers plan to conduct the first-ever comprehensive survey of the species. Once the data is collected, it will be used to build a plan for the species' survival.

[h/t The Washington Post]

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

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