7 On Your Side: Dirty Purses Test Results

So far we've met eight East Texas women who say they take their purses everywhere.

They agreed to let us take a culture swab of the outsides, which were sent to the microbiology lab at UT Health Center at Tyler.

Dr. Richard Wallace specializes in infectious diseases,"The technician that prepared these plates said she'd never cleaned her purse. And she took one look at them and said she wanted to go home and clean her purse."

Consistently found on most of the purses is bacteria categorized as gram negative rods.

Gram negative rods or GNR's can be found in feces, in bathrooms or kitchens not cleaned so well, they can even be picked up from our pets.

Forms of GNR's you've probably heard of include salmonella, shigella, and e-coli.

"Oh Carlotta has not had her purse in a good place," says Dr. Wallace looking at her purse test results.

Carlotta Butler owns one of the purses that had many colonies of gram negative rods.

"She grew mostly enteric bacteria. The bacteria that we associate with the gastro-intestinal tract, the colon, the small intestine. Obviously we can pick it up in the bathroom or kitchen which suggest that she's been some of those places," says Dr. Wallace.

Carlotta's reaction,"I know I have a habit of sitting my purse on the floor. If I go to a restroom in a restaurant, I sit my purse on the floor or on the back of the toilet and never think about it. I'm blowed away... It really makes you think."

Jessica Joyner and her friend, Rebecca Lane, had their purses tested. Jessica's also had gram negative rods and a dangerous skin organism called staph aureus.

"In the right setting [staph aureus] is quite capable of causing skin boils, local infections and rarely much more serious diseases, largely in people who are in the hospital," says Dr. Wallace.

"So basically I need to throw my purse away," says Rebecca.

Rebecca's says the she got tested was brand new, right out of the bag.  But it wasn't totally in the clear.

Found, were gram negatives and what's called coag neg staph, a bacteria that comes from our hands but doesn't cause disease.

With a two-year old at home, she's not taking any chances.

"It makes me want to take more precaution when letting my daughter handle it and putting her hands in her mouth," says Rebecca.

Then there's the gram negative rods found on Kara Welda's purse. It's called acineto bacter for short.

Not only can it make you sick, if someone contracts it it's very drug resistant.

Described as a hospital-related bacteria, that seems to be where Kara believes she recently picked it up.

"Yeah I have been in a hospital environment several times with that purse," says Kara.

While looking at the bacteria growth in the petri dish Triciana Porter says,"Oh my goodness. That's scary. I'm just really concerned not only for my health but for everyone I know."

It really hit home for some women as they saw video of their cultures, realizing now the bacteria they've been toting around all this time.

"Because we can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. And doesn't mean in the right person at the right time can make you ill," says Dr. Wallace.

While it's unlikely women will stop carrying purses altogether it's worth changing a few simple habits so your best friend doesn't become your worst enemy.

"I definitely will not sit my purse on a floor no where in a bathroom," says Carlotta.

Jessica adds, "I definitely won't be sitting it on the kitchen counter anymore."

Another piece of info to note: of all eight purses tested, only one had no gram negative rods.

All that was on it was the staph that comes off our hands, which is unharmful.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com