Pillows found in homes and hospitals can act as a breeding ground for infectious germs and superbugs, according to a new study.
Illnesses such as MRSA, C.diff, leprosy, influenza and chicken pox find the stuffy air conditions that surround beds and pillows ideal for breeding and multiplying.
Scientists revealed that after being slept on for two years over 30 percent of a pillow is made up of bacteria, dead skin and faeces from dust mites.
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As part of the study, scientists from St. Barts Hospital looked at the pillows used in hospitals run by the London NHS trust.
Results showed that more than one million Staphylococcus hominus bugs per millilitre were found in many of the hospital pillows.
This is type of bug has the potential to cause severe infection in those patients with already weakened immune systems.
Dr Arthur Tucker, who headed up the study, said in an interview: “People put a clean pillow case on and it looks and smells nice and fresh, but you are wrapping up something really nasty underneath.”
He described the Staphylococcus hominus bug as a “biohazard” and added: “The presence of these bugs means that they can and will be passed to patients.”
However, it is not just hospital pillows that carry this risk; bacteria can feast on dead skin and multiply on the surface of and in the filling of pillows in the home.
The researchers compared the results of hospital pillows with a specially designed medical pillow called SleepAngel.
Developed by Irish company Gabriel Scientific, SleepAngel pillows are made from a membrane designed to keep bacteria out a heart stent.
These pillows tested negative for any traces of bacteria after two months of use while the standard hospital pillows featured a range of bacteria and micro-organisms.
The findings of the study were discussed at the 2011 Healthcare Associated Infections conference.