The survival and environmental spread of Salmonella bacteria from domestic toilets was examined in homes, where a family member had recently suffered an attack of salmonellosis. In four out of six households tested, Salmonella bacteria persisted in the biofilm material found under the recess of the toilet bowl rim which was difficult to remove with household toilet cleaners. In two homes Salmonella bacteria became incorporated into the scaly biofilm adhering to the toilet bowl surface below the water line. Salmonella enteritidis persisted in one toilet for 4 weeks after the diarrhoea had stopped, despite the use of cleaning fluids. Salmonellas were not isolated from normally dry areas such as, the toilet seat, the flush handle and door handle. Toilet seeding experiments were set up with Salmonella enteritidis PT4 to mimic environmental conditions associated with acute diarrhoea. Flushing the toilet resulted in contamination of the toilet seat and the toilet seat lid. In one out of three seedings, Salmonella bacteria were also isolated from an air sample taken immediately after flushing, indicating that airborne spread of the organism could contaminate surfaces in the bathroom. In the seeded toilet Salmonella bacteria were isolated from the biofilm in the toilet bowl below the waterline for up to 50 d after seeding, and also on one occasion from the bowl water. The results suggest that during diarrhoeal illness, there is considerable risk of spread of Salmonella infection to other family members via the environment, including contaminated hands and surfaces in the toilet area.
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