Are men with moustaches more likely to carry nasal bacteria?

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This paper discusses the results of an investigation concentrating on men with and without a moustache, to explore whether having facial hair may lead to an increase in nasal Staphylococcus aureus (S aureus) colonisation.

S. aureus can be considered as a serious public health issue. It can cause a range of illnesses, from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, and food poisoning, although the presence of S. aureus does not always indicate infection.

The anterior nares (nostrils) are where S. aureus resides in human beings, and it has been shown that nasal carriers of S aureus have an increased risk of acquiring an infection with this pathogen. Despite antibiotic therapy, nasal infections occur frequently in hospitalised patients, often with severe consequences.  In order to fully address this public health problem, it is important to understand whether the presence of a moustache effects the colonisation of nasal infections.

To test this hypothesis the researchers took men who had been wearing a moustache for at least one year and compared them to the participants in the control group who had shaved the hair in this region daily over the previous year. None of the participants had been hospitalised or treated with antibiotics in the previous three months nor were they smokers or had any previous respiratory infections in the past.

The study group consisted of 118 adult men with a moustache and 123 men without a moustache, all of whom gave samples from their right nasal cavity for the study of cytology and the left nasal for microbiology testing.

The results of the swab testing indicated that nasal Staphylococcus aureus carriage is similar in men with (19.5%) and without (20.3%) a moustache.

As a moustache is situated at the entrance to the nostrils, some bacterial contamination might be possible, especially in nasal S aureus carriers. Nevertheless, this study indicated that nasal S aureus carriage is similar in men with and without a moustache. The carrier rate of S aureus observed here is comparable to those rates reported in the literature. Therefore, having a moustache does not increase the risk of S aureus colonisation in the nose.

The full paper, published in The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, “Effect of a moustache on nasal Staphylococcus aureus colonisation and nasal cytology results in men” by E. Soylu, I. Orhan, A. Cakir, A. Istanbullu, G. Altin, R. Yilmazer and O. F. Calim can be viewed free of charge here for a limited period.

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