By Lewis Smith
Tampons are already known to carry a risk but researchers have now shown that menstrual cups, an increasingly popular form of menstrual care, can also promote the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that create a TSS toxin.
"Both intravaginal devices appear to be risk factors for the development of menstrual toxic shock syndrome and precautions should be advised," researchers wrote in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Air trapped between the fibres of tampons and while inserting menstrual cups is suspected by the French research team of boosting the growth of the bacteria.
Researchers recommended that women use small rather than large cups, where possible, to minimise the volume of air trapped during insertion.
Concerns were raised by researchers that many women might be re-contaminating themselves because the bacteria can remain on the cups even after being washed three times. They recommended boiling the cups between use.
"A significant remaining biofilm of S. aureus was detected after 8 hours and 3 washes with water, regardless of cup model or composition," they wrote.
"Manual instructions of menstrual cup indicate that the cup could be removed, emptied, and rinsed with tap water before being re-inserted, but our results suggest that women may reinsert a contaminated cup when following this advice. A protocol including a second cup that allows for cup sterilization by boiling between uses should be recommended. "
Using organic tampons has been suggested as a means of reducing the risks of TSS but the research suggested they pose just as much a risk as other types.
"Our results did not support the hypothesis suggesting that tampons composed exclusively of organic cotton could be intrinsically safer than those made of mixed cotton and rayon, or viscose or tampons composed entirely of viscose," said Professor Gerard Lina, of University Claude Bernard, in Lyon, France.
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