The next time you take a shower, you might want to look above. To the showerhead, precisely … and wonder what's lurking inside.
That's the question behind a new research project that aims to plumb the innards of showerheads in America and Europe to discover what critters may be skulking there.
The Showerhead Microbiome Project also aims to see how those microbes are affected by the water used and the type of showerhead. Researchers are particularly interested in Mycobacterium, according to the project's website: “Some Mycobacterium are pathogens. Others may be beneficial. Others still are pathogens in some contexts and beneficial in others.”
The project's website describes showerheads as “the desert washes of your home, places of both bounty and hardship. This mix of soaking wet and bone dry provides circumstances that favor unusual sorts of microbes.”
What else could you find? “You may have worms,” one of the researchers told the New Yorker. “There's even some evidence in the Netherlands of little crustaceans.”
That researcher, Robb Dunn, of North Carolina State University, and his lab will be coordinating the processing of showerhead samples in the U.S.
Other researchers in the U.S. include Jennifer Honda of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, who is a nontuberculous mycobacteria microbiologist; and Dr. Ed Chan, of National Jewish Health, Denver, who is a lung physician. The duo will culture the bacteria found in the showerheads and study the relationship between those bugs and human lung disease.
If you want to participate, the researchers are still looking for a total of 500 people willing to swab their showerheads. You can sign up at robdunnlab.com/projects/showerheads. But they warn science is slow: “We won't be able to say tomorrow, 'this is the solution,' or 'your shower is unhealthy.' ”