Lethal bacteria found lurking in British cars' air con units

Bacteria which can lead to meningitis, urinary tract infections and septic arthritis, is to be found lurking in the air conditioning of many British cars, according to new research.,

A study carried out by Kwik Fit and researchers at London Metropolitan University uncovered some of the microorganisms blowing around our vehicles.

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Swabs of air conditioning filters taken from different cars across the UK were subjected to laboratory analysis, and every filter tested had microorganisms detected in it.

The most commonly found bacteria being Bacillus Licheniformis, frequently associated with bird feathers and soil, and in the study more than half of the filters (eight of the 15) tested positive for this microorganism.

Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus were the second most common microorganisms found. Bacillus subtilis are normally found in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and some mammals and Bacillus has links with a wide range of infections including meningitis, abscesses and septicaemia.

 On average, the test found 1.6 different strains of microorganisms within the filters. However, vehicles in Plymouth topped the table and came in above average with 2.3 varieties found per vehicle.

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As the warmer weather leads more drivers to turn up their air conditioning, Kwik Fit is recommending that all motorists have their air conditioning debugged at least once every two years to decontaminate the system and help remove the bacteria within.

Dr Paul Matewele, senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, commented: 'We discovered a variety of microorganisms in the air conditioning filters.  Some of the bacteria found has links to animals, the gastrointestinal tract of humans and some very nasty infections which could cause a lot of harm to individuals, especially those with a compromised immune system.

"The study highlights that air conditioning systems are suitable breeding grounds for bacteria and therefore underlines the importance of cleaning and replacing filters. I'm sure if car owners knew what they were blowing out of their air conditioning vents they would think twice before switching them on this summer.'

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