CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - When you buy a can soda, how often do you wipe it off before taking that first sip?
Heartland News put several to the test to see what kind of bacteria you could be putting in your mouth any time you head to the vending machine.
"Kind of nervous to see what I've been drinking on my soda cans. I've never really thought about it before," biology student Mallory Steward said.
Some Southeast Missouri State University biology students helped test dozens of cans to see what they are carrying beyond their contents.
The cans were purchased from gas stations, supermarkets and vending machines in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
The students swiped each and every one.
"Basically everywhere your lips would touch," Steward said. "This is going to help to get the bacteria off the lip of the can."
The swipes were placed on plates to test for generic bacteria, bacteria found on the skin, and fecal matter.
Students then repeated the tests again after wiping each of them off with a wet paper towel.
They even took it a step further, sanitizing the cans with a wipe before performing the test a third time.
Once all three tests were complete, the plates were placed in an incubator.
"It will basically show what types of bacteria will be growing in our body whenever we put this to our mouth," Steward said.
Three days later, the plates displayed a good amount of bacteria growth.
"We're going to do is count the number of colonies," biology student Kyla Meyers said.
Some plate samples were more extreme than others, and a few even ranged in color from yellow to red.
"Each one of those circles is a mound of bacteria," said Doctor Jim Champine, the Chairman of the SEMO Biology Department. "There's always a concern, but it's not unusual."
Dr. Champine says you will often find bacteria on your skin.
Most of the time it protects you from getting sick, but there is good and bad bacteria.
"Here we see the staph and strep bacteria," Dr. Champine said. "So they just got onto the cans from dust or sneezes and things like that. So those are a bit of concern."
This type of bacteria can carry viruses.
The results did not find any fecal matter.
Surprisingly, wiping the cans off with a paper towel did not help, and the sanitizer wipe still left traces of bacteria too.
"There's no way to protect yourself from all germs everywhere, but you can, hand washing, especially during cold and flu season," Dr. Champine said.
The students had one conclusion.
"I would suggest at least wiping it off with a wet paper towel, but I think if you do that you're probably pretty safe," Meyers said.
The largest amount of bacteria was found on the soda cans from the vending machines.
The least amount of bacteria was found on the 12-packs bought at the grocery stores.