Do farts carry germs? Well, it depends on whether you are wearing pants.

By Seriously Science | August 27, 2014 6:00 am

Here is yet another jewel from one of the holiday issues of the British Medical Journal, sent to us by a reader (thanks, Ben!). It’s pretty straightforward, so instead of an introductory blurb, we’ll warm you up with this video of a fart caught on an infrared airport camera:

Hot air?

“It all started with an enquiry from a nurse,” Dr Karl Kruszelnicki told listeners to his science phone-in show on the Triple J radio station in Brisbane. “She wanted to know whether she was contaminating the operating theatre she worked in by quietly farting in the sterile environment during operations, and I realised that I didn’t know. But I was determined to find out.”

Dr Kruszelnicki then described the method by which he had established whether human flatus was germ-laden, or merely malodorous. “I contacted Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, and together we devised an experiment. He asked a colleague to break wind directly onto two Petri dishes from a distance of 5 centimetres, first fully clothed, then with his trousers down. Then he observed what happened. Overnight, the second Petri dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin. But the flatus which had passed through clothing caused no bacteria to sprout, which suggests that clothing acts as a filter.

Our deduction is that the enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they’re similar to the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

Our final conclusion? Don’t fart naked near food. All right, it’s not rocket science. But then again, maybe it is?

Related content:
It is easier to fart while standing up or lying down?
Sexually aroused by farts? You’re not alone.
NCBI ROFL: Flatufonia–or the musical anus.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ha ha poop
  • http://gentlerobot.com/ Gentle Robot

    Science!

  • Roger Liucci

    Interesting article, however. . . .If this was a real video of a fart, the fart would be white not black. This is infrared isn’t it? This is a video of someone with a can of compressed air. distracting from the topic of germs.

    • Michael Sabino

      I think it’s inverted.

    • Mariusz Smykla

      I think he just farted mate ;) lol

    • David Khoo

      Agreed. It looks like an airport security officer mucking around with confiscated aerosols and expensive security equipment.

      The dark fingers vs light arms would indicate that darkness is colder than the lighter shades, therefore the gas is cold, and looks like it is of an inordinate volume for someone not doubled over in agony and experiencing intestinal distress.

      Additionally, you cannot see the person’s left hand, which I’m presuming is holding the aerosol can upside down.

  • Steven Cousler

    They don’t even mention the bad side effects of inhaling the aroma of different farts. Not mentioned is the different source foods of the farts. I postulate that a tuna and broccoli fart is far more toxic than others, not matter what clothing shield you wear. Experts in fartology they surely are not!

    • Steven Cousler

      I propose a law to ban 2nd hand fart air from all indoor public places. If they must constantly pass gas, then attach a vaporizer to their rear ends.

  • kenny_login

    I remember when I was little I would throw my food in the garbage if someone farted in the same room from which I was eating. Maybe that was some sort of primal instinct lost by most.

    • Brendan Dillon

      Pretty sure that wasn’t a “primal instinct lost by most”. More likely you picked it up from an uptight family member.

      • kenny_login

        Really I was concerned that the smell would somehow get on my food and would make it taste like fart.

        • Final_Word

          Your life sounds terrible.

  • Mike Shefler

    Sounds like a good candidate for the Ignoble Prize.

  • Aram Jahn

    Another final conclusion: don’t worry if you’re about to go under for an operation and notice the surgical team is naked: that flatus is “friendly.”

    And I must say I second Steven Cousier’s idea about banning second-hand fart air from public spaces…which reminds me of the old Steve Martin line: when someone asked him, “Mind if I smoke?” He replied, “Mind if I fart?”

    Science rules!

  • mary

    quite funny

  • Bridger54

    Sorry, that is an old video routinely used at Thermography classes. It’s a butane lighter, a cold compressed gas. Nice going author.

  • Burning Bush

    I wonder if Obama farts….

  • Final_Word

    In other words:

    FFFFFFFFFFHHHHHTTTTTTTTSSSSFFFFFFFFFFSSSSSSSTSSS!

  • stratomartin

    Love that so many people are concerned with the technical details of the vid. I laughed so hard I farted a little.

  • JonFrum

    A friend of my brother’s told this story: he was visiting the house of a friend, and sat down to dinner with them. When he had to sneeze, he turned his head away from the table and covered his mouth. The entire family, Mom, Dad and the kids, got up from the table unable to eat their meal in the presence of a sneeze.

    • ray_s

      Turning away ignores the possibility that a violent sneeze could cause recoil action at the other end.

  • Just Me

    It’s unfortunate that the video is the focus here. Who cares if it’s fake or not? All jokes aside, while the author says the results shouldn’t be alarming, consider areas of the world where clothing is not always worn, or hospitals where people walk around occasionally with the backs of their hospital gowns open. Or the number of rooms a nurse or orderly might enter where the sick occupants are experiencing higher than average intestinal distress. What of sick children in poorer areas of the world who are allowed to run around naked? If they have ebola or dysentery or Typhoid fever, wouldn’t this article indicate the spread of these diseases could be as much from gas as from dirty hands or exchange of fluids?

    Considering the rise in MRSA and C-diff as well as ebola, perhaps this research should get a second, more serious look. It has been shown that staph infections in hospitals are often carried by the people who work there – on their clothing, uniforms and aprons. Why wouldn’t the gases being emitted in the room increase transmissions of these diseases just as much as fluids?

    In the early days of infection research, the idea of tiny little “germs” causing disease was widely denounced as impossible. Sometimes a “joke” story like this turns out to have a grain of truth and should be investigated further.

    If we could identify this as one of the culprits in the spread of ebola, then we could also deal with it better, yes?

  • Just Me

    Addendum – I wrote to a scientist about this story and he wrote back, “We have Chinese (SARS) and Saudi (MERS) papers on this. It is thought to have caused the initial SARS spread in a apartment complex in Dongguan” — so maybe categorizing this under “Ha Ha Poop” is no joke and it might be moved to Serious Science instead of Serious? Science.

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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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