Pooping on an Airplane Can Be Dangerous, Research Says

According to a new study, airplane bathrooms contain a lot of antibiotic-resistant microbes.
Nursah Ergü

There's no other option to use the bathroom on an airplane when you need to use it, what are you going to do, pee your pants? Maybe it's better to do it.

According to recent research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, scientists tested airplane sewage from five different German airports. The sewage tested turned out to contain many different antibiotic-resistant microbes, which is much more than the number of microbes in the sewages of nearby wastewater plants and hospitals, which were also tested.


Microbiologist Stefanie Hess of Technische Universität Dresden in Germany told Science News, "This study clearly shows that the antibiotic-resistance problem is a global problem, and a global effort is necessary to tackle this severe threat for human and animal health."

Pooping on an Airplane Can Be Dangerous, Research Says
E. coli bacteria, Source: NIAID/flickr

Around 90 percent of the 187 E. coli were tested, and according to the study, they were resistant to at least one antibiotic. This is actually a serious problem since infections that can be caused by antibiotic-resistant microbes can be difficult to treat and deadly.

At the same time, the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria was around 45 to 60 percent in the samples from the waste treatment facilities.

According to a research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur every year in the U.S.A. and it causes the death of more than 35,000 people.

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Some infections such as strep throat, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and foodborne illnesses can get worse and they can be more difficult to treat due to antibiotic resistance.

Microbes become resistant to antibiotics and treatments because of small changes in their DNA and they can transfer this resistance to the other microbes they encounter.

According to the scientists of the research, airplane sewage should be managed and treated more carefully by public health officials.

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