These Are The Bacteria Hiding In Our Cars, New UK Study Reveals

bacteria in our cars germs vehicle

Did you know that cars are breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria? In fact, a recent study showed there are 700 different types of bacteria found in the average car. This could be especially dangerous in the age of Covid-19, when you need to keep your immune system in tip top shape.

The Biochemical Engineering department at UCL teamed up with ATS Euromaster to gather a small sample of the germy nasties living in the average UK car. 

Eleven cars were swabbed by Professor John Ward and his team from University College London at the Brixton Hill ATS Euromaster garage. 

Six areas of each car were tested for germs and bacterium. The places chosen to swab were regular touchpoints and bacteria hotspots. The swabs were incubated on agar plates at 30 degrees for a week and photographed during and after the incubation. 

This Is What Was Found

Staphylococcus Aureus 

Staphylococcus aureus can cause staph, a minor infection of the skin. While this is harmless, it can also cause toxic shock syndrome and blood poisoning. Staphylococcus aureus commonly comes from the nasal passage and the skin. 

Bacillus Mycoides And Bacillus Subtilis 

These bacteria types are found in the digestive system of humans and in soil. They are not threatening to humans. 

Micrococcus Luteus 

This bacterium is found on human skin, as well as in soil and dust. There has been no evidence to suggest it’s harmful to humans. 

Staphylococcus Epidermidis 

Known to cause infections, predominantly amongst people with weaker immunity, Staphylococcus epidermidis is a bacteria type stemming from human skin, and one that is capable of causing infection or, worse, blood poisoning. 

Prevotella And Burkolderia 

These bacteria types were thought to be present in the cars tested, though a more invasive testing method would be needed to say for sure. They can cause illness in humans. 

The Dirtiest Areas Of The Car (Worst To Least Problematic) 

1. Cup Holder 

An area prone to spillages, crumbs and dirt - the cup holder traps bacteria and provides a space for it to grow. The problem? It’s often overlooked entirely. 

2. Dashboard Buttons 

The dashboard buttons may not seem dirty at a glance, but because they’re touched regularly, germs transfer to this spot easily. As an aside, before getting in your car, it’s a good idea to use a portable sanitiser on your hands. 

3. Seat Belt Catch 

This is often overlooked when cleaning the car, but it shouldn’t be. It provides the perfect gap for crumbs, skin flakes and dust, which all produce bacteria. 

4. Steering Wheel 

A recent study shows that the steering wheel is four times dirtier than a toilet seat – and yet the dashboard buttons, seat belt catch and cup holder are all worse! 

5. Door Handle 

The door handle is frequently touched when getting into and out of the car. Even though its flat surface means it doesn’t trap as much bacteria, this still an area that should be regularly cleaned. 

6. Gear Stick 

This is another spot which shouldn’t be ignored when cleaning. Germs transfer to the gear stick from the hands, as it is grabbed constantly throughout a car journey. 

Keep Cars Cleaner

The average person in the UK spends 500 - 530 hours behind the wheel every year. That’s a lot of time spent touching surfaces, eating and accumulating germs and dirt inside the car. This bacterium could potentially lower your immune system, create an infection, or impact your respiratory system.

A key message to take away from the experiment is to thoroughly clean the interior of the car – not just the outside. But how thorough should you be? If you wouldn’t let your home get at dirty as the inside of your car, that’s a good indication it needs a clean. Also make sure to replace all of your air filters to breathe cleaner air!

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