Dirty Purses Carry More Than Meets The Eye

February 15, 2007 - Posted at 8:43 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- For most women, it's a lifeline...holding everything from cell phones to wallets to your bathroom cabinet.

"Toothbrush, wallet, deodorant--any type of personal items I have," laughed Tehya Barnes.

But they could be holding much more then you think...from bathroom floors to unwashed hands...purses come in contact with plenty of potential filth.

"Germs are everywhere," said Zella McDonald during. A simple swab holds the secrets Region 8 purses are hiding.

"I think you'll find something--I just hope it's not the worst you find," said Amanda Williams as she handed over her bag for testing.

"There is probably a lot of nasty stuff on it," admitted Barnes.

Microbiologist Connie Cook, put the sponges we used on the purses through a litany of tests.  Bacterial colonies are grown on these special plates.  Overall, the purses we tested turned out pretty clean.

"I don't know whether to say that's a representative sample, but it's nice--it's reassuring a little bit," said Cook.

Turns out, there were no significant levels of e-coli or coli forms--both of which come from fecal matter.  One purse did have more than 60 bacterial colonies of staphylococcus aureus.             That comes from the nasal membrane and can cause serious illness or infection if exposed to a scratch or cut.

"I mean, there's going to be background bacteria and I wouldn't consider that a health issue at that level," said Cook.

Cook believes its good advice to keep your purse away from dirty surfaces. Wiping it down occasionally with soap and water or an anti-bacterial wipe will cut down the germs.

"Most people keep them on their shoulders because of security, so you're not much letting them out of your sight very much," said Cook.

And a lesson learned straight from the pocketbook.

"Now I'm pretty cautious about where I place my purse," laughed McDonald.