home News Is your pillow trying to kill you as well? More excessive media hype about indoor microbes.

Is your pillow trying to kill you as well? More excessive media hype about indoor microbes.

“How your pillow is the perfect breeding ground for gruesome array of pests and diseases”.

HK SW Hollywood Road Police HQ Art Demo 12-2009 bed and pillows in white

This headline from the Daily Mail in the UK was one of many yesterday relating to a study presented at the Healthcare Associated Infections 2011 conference in London on Tuesday.  As usual, the study didn’t make any actual associations between pillows and health outcomes, they just surveyed a bunch of pillows just like in the recent dishwasher study.

To be fair, they found methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).  In addition the authors calculated that after two years 1/3 of a pillow by weight consists of “living and dead dust mites, dust mite feces, dead skin and bacteria” according to another article.  Which is kind of gross regardless.

For hospitals and hotels this may be a concern, although again… no actual epidemiology was performed in this study.   But the pillows in your house only contain the microbes that you’ve inoculated them with.  If you have MRSA, probably so does your pillow.  But it didn’t just spontaneously appear there.

One other gripe about the coverage of this story, the study also looked at a high-tech pillow designed to keep out microbes and found that these pillows didn’t harbor bacteria.   Which is fine, but many of the news stories carried quotes from that company about how regular pillows were dangerous and scary.   Hrm.  Any conflict of interest there?

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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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