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You may have heard about a scientific study that was recently published and then widely reported in the media with sometimes alarmist headlines about Toxic Shock Syndrome. Some people came to the conclusion that the menstrual cup is more dangerous than tampons, others that the menstrual cup is no more dangerous, but that it just needs cleaning more often. And what part are we playing in all this? Today, we are going to separate the truth from the myths and clear up any misunderstandings you might have.
Who carried out this study?
It was a team of French researchers (cocorico!), based in Lyon. These researchers are part of the National Staphylococcus Reference Centre, an institution responsible for studying these small and highly problematic bacteria. In this study, they investigated whether tampons or menstrual cups promote the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium responsible for Toxic Shock Syndrome.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
You may have heard the story of the model Lauren Wasser, who lost both legs after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is caused by a bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus which produces a toxin, TSST-1, capable of passing through the vaginal wall and spreading through the body. The TSST-1 toxin can cause gangrene of the extremities, and even cause vital organs to shut down. Men, women or children can develop TSS, but 50% of TSS cases occur in women during or shortly after menstruation and in these cases we talk about Menstrual Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Why? Because Staphylococcus develops particularly well in menstrual blood. Remember that TSS is very rare: out of 15 million menstruating women in France, just 15 cases of menstrual TSS are reported each year, or 0.0001%.
Menstrual TSS was discovered in the 1980s, when a super-absorbent tampon came onto the market: the Rely tampon. Unfortunately it caused about 800 cases of TSS and 38 deaths, because its composition promoted the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. Since then, the Rely tampon has been withdrawn from the market, and its main component, carboxymethylcellulose, has been banned for use in tampons. After this scandal broke, tampon manufacturers also began to advise women to change their tampons every 4 to 8 hours, because the Rely tampon was so absorbent that women sometimes kept it in for the duration of their period!
Since the 1980s, new components have started to be used in tampons, including viscose. The team of researchers therefore set out to find out whether this new composition could also play a part in the increase of Staphylococcus and TSS. Many manufacturers of menstrual cups (not including Claripharm) and organic cotton tampons claim that their products protect against Toxic Shock Syndrome. So they wanted to check if this was really the case.
It was not possible to ask women to wear tampons for as long as possible and risk putting their lives in danger (imagine that!). So the researchers sought to reproduce the conditions in which the tampons or cups are in once inside the vagina during menstruation. For this, they used plastic bags (to replicate the vagina), 15 ml of a menstrual blood-mimicking fluid, a Staphylococcus aureus cell taken from a woman who suffered from TSS, and of course, a classic tampon, an organic tampon or a cup.
You must be dying to know! What results did they obtain? Does it change anything for me? Read more right here >>>>>
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