SOME women are so conscious of their personal hygiene that they often wonder who was sitting on a seat before they were, and whether or not that person left some kind of bacteria behind. While sitting on a regular seat - bus, hospital bench, park seat, etc - may not pose a threat of picking up or leaving infection-causing bacteria, sitting on a toilet seat just might.
According to gynaecologist Professor Horace Fletcher, some infections and infestations can be transmitted from dirty toilet seats.
"Notably among them are Trichomoniasis (a vaginal infection) which can exist in body fluids on toilet seats or damp bath rags and in swimming pool water," he said. "Worms or worm eggs can also be transmitted by contact with dirty bathroom fixtures - these are transmitted hand to mouth usually, so wash your hands when using public toilets. Lice such as crab lice are also easily caught in this way. So when using a strange toilet avoid wiping with other peoples towels and rags and wipe the seat before use, especially if it is wet," he advised.
So while you can catch an infection from a toilet seat, the flip side is that you can pass on an infection to someone in a similar fashion. This is one of the reasons you are advised to wipe the seat if you sprinkle.
"In a similar way if a woman has Trichhomoniasis, Gardnerella or even worms, she can pass it on to some unsuspecting person who uses her rag or towel or goes and sits on the toilet just after she has used it (without wiping it clean)," Dr Fletcher said.
He explained, however, that transfer of infections this way is not a common occurrence.
"Most of these infections (Trichomoniasis and Gardnerella) are transmitted sexually," he said.
According to iVillage.com there are other organisms that conceivably could be acquired by contact with toilet seats, such as the strep (streptococcus) and staph (staphylococcus) bacteria that we routinely carry on our skins. It is possible that you could become colonised with a specific organism (become a carrier) after sharing a toilet seat with someone carrying that organism. But, in agreement with Dr Fletcher, they believe the risk of such transmission is very small.
There is no way to know how frequently such infections are spread by toilet seats, so while we will not suggest that you desist from using public toilets or share toilets with others, always ensure that you wipe the seat before actually sitting down.