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Men's Offices Have More Bacteria than Women's

Update Date: May 31, 2012 11:02 PM EDT

Men's offices are dirtier than women's, a new study found.

Surfaces in men's offices are covered in 10% to 20% more bacteria than those in women's offices, according researchers who studied offices in three U.S. cities.

This may be because men, the study finds, are simply dirtier than women. "Men are known to wash their hands and brush their teeth less frequently than women, and are commonly perceived to have more slovenly nature," the researchers said.

Additionally, men are frequently larger than women, and thus have more surface area for bacteria to live in and shed from, the authors added.

Scott Kelley, an associate professor of biology at San Diego State University, and colleagues sampled 90 offices from buildings in New York City, San Francisco and Tucson. They swabbed employees' chairs, phones, desktops, computer mice and keyboards, and analyzed the bacterial DNA.

Besides gender difference in office hygeine, the study found more useful facts.

It was found that there are at least more than 500 groups, or "genera," of bacteria in the offices.

The most abundant bacteria were from human skin and the nasal, oral or intestinal cavities. Bacteria from soils were also commonly found.

Against people's common expectation, office chairs and phones were found to have more bacteria than desktops, keyboards and computer mice.

It was found that New York City offices were the dirtiest, and those in San Francisco were the cleanest.

While offices in New York and San Francisco have similar types of bacteria, samples from Tucson looked different, probably because of a different climate of the southern city.

Bacteria in offices are not necessarily worrisome, the researchers said. In fact, many bacteria are harmless, and could actually help maintaining human health.

"You shouldn't be worried in your own office — it's you; it's just a reflection of who you are," said Kelley. These bacteria are "with us all the time, and they don’t make us sick."

The findings of the study appear in the May 30 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

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