VIRGINIA BEACH-- Your purse. If you're like many women, it's with you at all times, no matter where you go. It's on or under your desk at work, on the ladies room floor at a restaurant or the movies. It ends up in the basket of the shopping cart at the grocery store.
Sometimes, that same purse lands on your kitchen counter or dinner table, so whatever's on the bottom of your bag is there, too.
At the Oceanfront and Town Center in Virginia Beach, some women had vague ideas about what they 'think' would be on their purses.
'Germs,' guessed Jean Kunnen, who was visiting from Michigan; Haven Essenmacher said 'just about anything.'
13News tested their purses, along with 9 other bags, using sterile saline swabs to get samples from the bottoms. We checked different shapes, sizes and materials.
The samples were smeared onto petri dishes and taken to the Virginia Beach campus of Tidewater Community College to see what would grow.
The samples were placed in an incubator for a week at body temperature. After about 48 hours, biology instructor Carrie Gordon was already seeing growth. She was surprised by how much bacteria the bags were harboring.
'After seeing this, I definitely would not be putting a bag on top of a table or a counter top just because of all the growth there,' states Gordon.
Gordon says bacterial colonies grew in every single petri dish; some even had fungus, which began to create spores. Among the bacteria growing was staphylococcus aureus, which can cause skin infections and boils.
My bag was the only one with a colony of Serratia marcescens, which can cause eye and urinary tract infections. Another purse netted what looked like a colony of E-coli.
'Oh my gosh, I uh, that would scare me,' admits Jeanine Murphy. So, what, if any, danger does all of this actually pose to you? Gordon says to keep this in mind: 'For every cell in your body, you have a minimum of ten organisms living on or in you. So, we're actually a giant city of microbes, um, so, you can't be paranoid about it. But, because these bacterias, some of them, can become pathogens with humans, I wouldn't put it on a table top or counter top.'
She adds that you're in no real danger unless you have a weakened immune system.
Her advice is to treat your purse like you treat your shoes. You wouldn't put them on the kitchen table.
As for where you put down your purse when out and about, consider these tips.
'A lot of people in a lot of cultures remove the shoes as soon as they come into the home and maybe it's a good idea to have place to put your bag as soon as you come in,' suggests Gordon.
Cyndi Kight, whose purple vinyl bag had Staph aureus on it, says, 'I really try not to ever let my bag hit the ground.'
Marty McDermott's brown leather leather satchel had fungus and bacteria on the bottom, so she recommends 'one of those little hooks to hang your purse on.'