Just FYI, Urine Is Not Actually Sterile

Rebuttals to Trump's "germaphobe defense" play into a medical myth.
There's a popular notion that urine is sterile, but recent research suggests that's not true.
Vonschonertagen via Getty Images
There's a popular notion that urine is sterile, but recent research suggests that's not true.

President-elect Donald Trump declared he was a “germaphobe” Wednesday to deflect unverified allegations that he hired sex workers to perform a “golden shower” show, in which urination is part of a sex act.

Trump probably meant his “germaphobe” defense as a little joke in light of the uncorroborated dossier, published Tuesday by Buzzfeed. It alleges Russian intelligence officials have compromising personal information on Trump, including the event described above.

Numerous social media users immediately started complaining that this alibi doesn’t hold water, citing an oft-repeated claim that “urine is sterile.”

But regardless of what you think about the report on Trump, here’s one thing we’d like to clear up: Urine is not actually sterile.

The popular myth reportedly has roots in 1950s research on urinary tract infections, and even then, scientists only believed that urine was sterile if it came from people without UTIs, according to Science News.

A 2014 study, however, suggests that all urine has some level of bacteria. Researchers from Loyola University found that urine taken directly from the bladders of healthy women contained bacteria, including types that are not picked up by traditional UTI tests.

“While traditional urine cultures have been the gold standard to identify urine disorders in the past, they do not detect most bacteria and have limited utility as a result,” lead study author Alan Wolfe said in a statement when the study came out.

Of course, mysophobia — the technical term for the fear of germs —relies on feelings of uncleanliness, real or imagined. Medical realities don’t play a large role in allaying phobias. But we still think it’s worth acknowledging the truth about urine’s supposed sterility— you never know when it might come up.

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