Where to go when you’ve got to go

Med lab students, Amanda Olson, Dong Won Yu, Lesley Garcia, Lesly Mislang and Rachel Sanders, conducted a study on UAA’s bathrooms for bacterial growth. Their study was presented at the Student Showcase where it received an honorable mention. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

In my first semester as a staff reporter for The Northern Light, I wrote a piece entitled “Where to go when you’ve got to go: The best bathrooms on UAA’s campus.” I was reminded of the article when a group of medical laboratory science majors used that piece as the basis for a study they did on which bathrooms at UAA were the most clean.

While my article focused solely on the aesthetic value of the bathrooms, the medical laboratory science majors found that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the school’s facilities.

“It turns out there really is no correlation between like a nice bathroom and how clean it is versus an [unclean] bathroom,” group member Dong Won Yu said.

Yu and four other class members recently presented their study at the Student Showcase on April 6 and were recognized as one of three honorable mentions.

“It was nice that we were selected and notarized as interesting and putting ourselves out there for everybody to know about,” group member Amanda Olson said.

So what did they find?

“The male [bathrooms] had more contamination on the sink handles and the female [bathrooms] for the stall locks — or most when compared to each other,” group member Rachel Sanders said.

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The group swabbed the faucet handle, interior door handle, interior stall lock and the toilet handles of multiple first floor bathrooms for different types of organisms.

“We found a lot of things,” Yu said. “The two main organisms that were found were bacteria and fungus, and so we screened a total of nine buildings, a total of 72 sites. The main bacteria we found was… staph aureus. It’s a bacteria and it was found in like most of the buildings and it’s a bacteria that’s normally found on the skin.”

From their research they found the first floor Student Union bathroom — which received the lowest rating for a female bathroom in the November 2016 aesthetic rank — was actually the bathroom that had the least amount of bacteria.

The worst bathroom surprised everyone, including group member Lesly Mislang.

“It was surprising for us to find [MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus] at the Health Sciences Building because you know it’s the Health Sciences Building… It’s pretty surprising because it was the male’s bathroom, too,” Mislang said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA “is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics… and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from are skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia to bloodstream infections.”

The research project made several group members more aware of the bacteria that surrounds them. They advise readers to wash their hands.

“Patient care is the most important thing. If even small projects like this can make you more aware that, ‘oh this is how it’s happening for real than how I’m assuming than,’ it can make a huge difference in patient care later,” group member Lesley Garcia said. “Because we are students and we are getting this experience under our belt it is going to help people in the long run.”

“Ever since we started our project I literally wash my hands before I touch anything and after, before I leave and try not to touch anything on the way out,” Olson said.

Their group research demonstrated that the first floor bathroom of the Social Sciences Building was also one of the cleanest.