Ladies beware - the bottom of your purse could have traces of harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli.

In a swab test by Nelson Labs in Wisconsin, one out of four handbags had strands of harmful bacteria, but the actual amounts were not revealed.

"You're more likely to get sick if you just sat in a desk after a person coughed," said John Buchner, a graduate student in the microbiology department.

Buchner said the levels of bacteria would not cause harm and E. Coli occurs naturally in the body and helps digest food in the intestines.

Only one strand of E. Coli causes the commonly feared sickness.

"If handbags contamination is a large issue, we would've heard about it before now," Buchner said.

Females still need to be aware of where they place their purses and be especially aware of kitchen counters, he said.

He said purses should not be placed on a counter where you handle foods such as raw chicken and eggs.

Any bacteria on the chicken might be transferred, Buchner said.

"Once they're transferred to a surface, it's possible to be transferred to another surface."

He also said students shouldn't just pay attention to the kitchen.

"The cleaner you keep your countertop or bath, the fewer opportunities you give to microbes, the less chance you have to get sick," he said.

Cloth bags are more suspectible to bacteria than leather, and they may need to be cleaned once a week.

Caroline Garrett, a freshman from Columbus, said she throws her cloth bag in the washer if it ever gets dirty.

TIPS FOR A CLEAN PURSE

Clean the bottom with a disinfectant wipe once a week

Wash cloth bags (but with extreme care so as not to ruin the bag)

Don't place purses where food was prepared

Don't set them on the bathroom floor

Buchner recommended students use a disinfecting wipe for (leather) purses.

"I had no idea there was purse hygiene," said Megan Sando, a freshman from Columbus, who carries a leather bag.

Neither of the students was too concerned with the test results and they were not planning on changing any of their habits, they said.

While Buchner stressed the importance of cleanliness, he did not want students to be afraid.

"You don't want to be too paranoid," he said.

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