The higher the ratio of men in your office, the higher the ratio of germs. So says science. Photo: Louie Douvis
The battle of the sexes has become a bacterial war, with new research showing men's offices have ''significantly more bacteria'' than women's.
American scientists examined 90 different offices in New York, San Francisco and Tuscon, Arizona, and found that office chairs and phones were the most bacteria-heavy surfaces.
The researchers, led by Scott Kelley, from San Diego State University, also found that when the offices were occupied by men there was more bacteria present.
''Humans are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, yet we know little about the diversity of bacteria and viruses where we live, work and play,'' Dr Kelley said.
The study focused on the different amounts of bacteria growth between different surfaces, gender-based environments and cities.
Researchers found bacteria were most abundant on chairs and phones while desktops, keyboards and mice had comparatively lower amounts of bacteria.
The bacteria mostly came from human bodies, with the main culprits being skin, oral cavities and nasal cavities.
They also noted a ''surprising number of bacterial genera'' associated with the digestive tract.
No prizes for guessing why men had more bacteria, with scientists suggesting the difference was due to bad male hygiene. ''Men are known to wash their hands and brush their teeth less frequently than women and are commonly perceived to have a more slovenly nature,'' they said.
However, larger body mass was also named as a possible cause for the difference between sexes.
Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, said that because men were generally bigger than women, there was more surface area for bacteria colonisation.
He stressed the need to remember that our common understanding of bacteria as harmful is incorrect. ''Most of the bacteria are good bacteria … we'd be in trouble without them,'' he said.
Professor Collignon said that people who were concerned about bacteria should make sure they washed their hands and their work area.
But he urged them not to be over-cautious.
''The last thing we want to do is napalm everything,'' he said.
The researchers said the novel study could be the first step in further research, such as analysing so-called ''sick buildings''.
Studying the types of bacteria discovered in offices could also show how readily different microbes are able to disperse around the world.
The study is published in the journal PloS One today.