MANY years ago, I worked with a man who I greatly admired. He was highly skilled at his job, he was educated and erudite and was an absolute star of our quiz team.

I loved working with him and learned so much from him that helped me with my career.

But there was one thing I never understood about him – he never washed his hands after using the toilet and I just don’t know why. As such a bright and intelligent man, he must have known he was potentially spreading disease.

But it appears he was not alone. According to findings following a study commissioned by the Champs Public Health Collaborative – an organisation led by Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine Directors of Public Health – microbes that are usually spread through faeces, as well as many different types of fungus, were discovered on items such kettles, fridge door handles, coffee machines and microwave buttons in communal workplace kitchens across the area.

Microbiologists analysed a set of swabs taken from shared kitchen areas across a range of different sectors ranging from office settings to construction sites. The results revealed how high touchpoints could be playing a major role in the spread of bacteria which could eventually lead to illnesses, especially among those with weakened immune systems.

Swab samples revealed the presence of Escherichia coli (E.coli) – a bacterium that can lead to a range of gastro-intestinal illnesses – on a coffee machine, fridge door handle and microwave control panel.

A bacterium called Pseudomonas, which is often associated with respiratory infections, was also discovered on these three items. There was also evidence of Klebsiella, a microbe usually found in the human intestine and also spread via faeces, which was present on almost all 11 kitchen items.

I have to confess I have never heard of Kledsiella but a little research revealed it’s not something I particularly want to come into contact with because Klebsiella organisms can lead to a wide range of diseases, notably pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sepsis, meningitis, diarrhoea, peritonitis and soft tissue infections.

I don’t want to be alarmist about this as these microbes are all around us anyway.

But Dr Adam Roberts, one of the chief researchers within the Infection Innovation Consortium, says: “We live among bacteria and fungi, coming into contact with them every single day as we go about our normal lives but some microbes, if ingested into our bodies, can lead to illness and infection.

“The results from this study showed communal kitchen areas to be full of various types of bacteria, many of which can be found in faeces. This is, of course, an extremely unpleasant thought but one which could indicate that people are simply not washing their hands thoroughly – or at all – after going to the toilet and then going to make themselves a cup of tea or preparing their lunch, for example.”

To some extent, I’m a little surprised at the findings. I thought Covid had taught us the value of thorough hand washing but maybe now the general public has decided Covid is a thing of the past we have all reverted to pre-pandemic behaviour.

(Spoiler alert: Covid is very much still with us. There were almost 58,000 new reported cases in the week to March 2 with the true figure likely to be much higher as the government stopped issuing free lateral flow tests.)

So my message is: Don’t be dirty – just wash your hands when you’ve been to the toilet.

On another topic. I thought I was pretty observant and given I spend most days at home I assumed that if anything untoward happened in my road I would know about it. Just goes to show how wrong I was.

Out of idle curiosity, I had a look at the interactive ‘crime map’ on the Guardian’s website to see what, if any, bad behaviour had taken place on my little road in January.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there had been a criminal damage and arson attack on my peaceful suburban estate.

Looks like I need to be paying more attention, especially as the investigation is marked as complete with the message ‘no suspect identified’.