LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If a man's home is his castle then maybe his car is his rubbish bin, with a study finding the typical car has 283 different types of bacteria present in every square centimeter (square inch).
Microbiologists from Britain's Aston University found the dirtiest part of the vehicle was the gear stick, home to 356 germs on a square centimeter, while one car boot in a random survey of 25 cars had 850 bacteria in a square centimeter.
Drivers with children and pets were found to host a greater number and range of bacteria in their cars with, in one instance, bacterial traces of excrement found in the boot of the car where the weekly food shopping was regularly placed.
"Whilst most of the bacteria we've found are unlikely to cause serious health problems, some cars, particularly those which regularly carry children and animals, play host to potentially harmful germs," said Anthony Hilton, director of Biology and Biomedical Science, at Aston University.
"People would be horrified at the thought of eating off their toilet seat, but few realize eating off their car dashboard is just as likely to make them sick," he added in a statement.
The study, conducted for insurance.co.uk, found British motorists spend more than three years of their life behind the wheel and over a quarter eat there every week.
One in four of 1,376 car owners polled said their car is littered with food wrappers and empty drink bottles, while one in six admitted to regularly leaving uneaten food in their vehicle.
Half of the drivers admitted the standard of cleanliness in their car left much to be desired and they would never let their home get into the same condition.
The study also found a strong correlation between the mileage of the car and the bacterial and fungal air quality.
The researchers said that when air and heater blowers are switched on, the number of airborne bacteria and fungi significantly increases, especially in older cars, which are less likely to have air filters.
The study and research findings were released by insurance.co.uk in a bid to encourage motorists to keep on top of car maintenance.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy