ALBANY - The National Institute of Research on Auto-Immune Diseases released a report today citing heated seats in automobiles as the likely reason for the recent rash of urinary tract (UTI's) and anal/rectal infections (ARI's).
These types of infections, particularly resistant to common antibiotics, have nearly quadrupled since 1999. In the press conference announcing the results of the study, the project's lead researcher Dr. Lawrence Esary stated, "We feel that this study proves a definitive link between an increased occurrence of UTI's and ARI's, and heated automobile seats. The data indicates that the heat produced by a heated auto seat provides an ideal environment for bacteria reproduction, in particular the types of bacteria commonly associated with UTI's and ARI's."
Dr. Esary's study was conducted over a period of three years, comparing baseline bacteria samples obtained from more than 800 participants with samples obtained after thirty minutes seated on a heated auto seat. The typical auto commute is about a half hour. "We found that the post-heated samples contained as many as 1,000 times the bacteria levels as those found on normal pre-heated gluteal tissues. It's a virtual bacteria breeding ground," Esary said.
It is these elevated levels of bacteria that can lead to infections of the anal and genital areas, especially in people with otherwise weakened immune systems. "The danger with heated auto seats is that they are, of course, most often used in cold weather, which can itself cause immunities to be lowered," Esary continued, noting that UT and AR infections were the primary cause in more than 14,000 deaths in the US last year.
While Dr. Esary cautioned that further research is necessary to test the conclusions of the study, he warned that individuals can protect themselves by confining heated seat use to no more than 10 minutes per hour. Esary stated that he would also support legislation to require auto manufacturers to provide warnings about heated auto seats. "If drivers insist on using the heated seats for a longer period of time, they can protect themselves by stopping at a restroom every one or two hours to wipe off the accumulated bacteria growth," he concluded.