Your Baby’s Biofilmy Pacifier

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        How germy is your baby’s pacifier?

        Probably not the most surprising news to busy parents, but yes, your baby’s pacifier is a harbinger of germs, researchers say.

        Researchers found baby pacifiers to be contaminated with harmful germs ranging from Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumonia to mold.

        Turns out a contaminated pacifier grows a biofilm, which the researchers describe as a “slimy coating of bacteria that changes the normal microbe balance in the mouth and is particularly resistant to antibiotics.” Biofilms have been linked to colic and ear infections as well as to diseases later in life, such as metabolic syndrome.

        The research was presented at the 2012 American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Annual Meeting in Boston this weekend.

        The study, however, was small, testing ten used pacifiers taken from healthy infants and seven new pacifiers. In all, the researchers found more than 40 different species of bacteria on the pacifiers.

        Five of the used pacifiers were only slightly contaminated, while the other five were heavily contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia and fungus.

        What’s a freaked-out parent to do? If a pacifier pops out of your baby’s mouth, it needs to be cleaned, suggest the researchers.

        Give it a good wash with dish soap and cold water and let it air dry, or soak in a solution of baking soda and water. Keep a stash of clean pacifiers on hand in a plastic bag. If you’re on short supply, wipe off a dropped pacifier with a tissue, since that helps prevent the buildup of biofilm.

        Still, not everyone is in agreement with this protocol. Dr. Bruce Hirsch of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, told WebMD that “a dirty pacifier may be a good thing.” He adds: “Exposure to multiple types of bacteria early on in life can help an infant develop and sustain a healthy immune system.”


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