The Flush Heard, but not Smelled, Around the World

This Christmas I learned about a seemingly popular gift, at least in my network: Poo-pourri. Poo-pourri is sort of the equivalent of pre-exposure prophylaxis against...the stench of feces. 

One sprays the liquid into the toilet bowl prior to use and the oils contained in the substance neutralize/mask the odor. 

Since my writing is ostensibly educational, a few facts:

  • The sulfur-containing products of intestinal bacterial are what produce the characteristic odor
  • The repertoire of different bacteria present in one's stool is severely altered, for the long term, by antibiotic use for -- a phenomenon that explains how C.diff infection occurs and the rationale for fecal transplantation for severe or recurrent cases
  • A toilet can serve as a rocket launcher for fecal bacteria creating a toilet plume, though this is not thought to be an infection risk (with one caveat below)
  • The Flush Heard Round the World: during the SARS pandemic in 2003, a SARS-infected visitor to a large residential housing complex in Hong Kong experienced diarrhea and his flush created an aerosal the sparked hundreds of cases (see my take on a recent paper on this topic)

Proctologists have nothing on infectious diseases physicians.