Scott Hollifield: Be still, Rover, it's for science -- study looks at bearded men, dogs and MRIs

Science says a bearded man is dirtier than a dog’s rear end.

As a currently bearded man, I could take offense at that but I am not easily offended and I tend not to argue with scientists. They are generally smarter than me and could, if sufficiently riled, smash me over the head with a microscope, poke me in the eye with a test tube or fry me to a crisp with a secret death ray they are on the verge of perfecting.

This scientific discovery is chronicled in the February edition of a journal called European Radiology (“Inside this month: Stunning x-rays of supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s femur!”).

According to a summary on the Springer Nature website, researchers set out to answer this question: “Would it be safe to have a dog in the MRI scanner before your own examination?”

I find that to be a rather random medical question. Why not, “Is it OK to let a cat perform an appendectomy?” or “What are the risks of a goat assisting in a kidney transplant?”

But, once again, I’m not here to question the work of scientists.

“We compared the bacterial load in colony-forming units (CFU) of human-pathogenic microorganisms in specimens taken from 18 men and 30 dogs,” reads the methodology. “In addition, we compared the extent of bacterial contamination of an MRI scanner shared by dogs and humans with two other MRI scanners used exclusively by humans.”

I imagine the experiment went something like this.

“Hey, what are you people doing in here? There’s like 18 naked bearded men and 29 dogs in the hall. And get that beagle out of the MRI scanner. I don’t know what kind of weird internet site you’re running but this is a hospital.”

“No, we are fellow scientists and we’re trying to answer a very important question.”

“I don’t care if you’re on the verge of perfecting a death ray, get out of here before I smash you over the head with a microscope and poke you in the eye with a test tube.”

Maybe it didn’t go quite like that, but the scientists did reach a conclusion following their experiments.

“Our study shows that bearded men harbor a significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs,” it reads. “As the MRI scanner used for both dogs and humans was routinely cleaned after animal scanning, there was substantially lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans.”

While I find this information useful and it will certainly put me more at ease should I find a cocker spaniel exiting the MRI machine just as I am going in, it does raise additional questions for me, a currently bearded man.

Questions such as:

- Now that I know my face is a hairy, festering clump of human-pathogenic strains, should I make more of an effort to clean it, perhaps soaking it 8-10 times a day in a partial chlorine bleach solution and sponging it dry with the backside of a Chihuahua?

-What if I unexpectedly find a teacup yorkie living in my beard, it complains of blinding headaches and the vet recommends that it have an MRI to diagnose the cause? Will it be so contaminated by living in my festering clump of human-pathogenic strains that the MRI machine will have to be sold as scrap following the procedure rather than risk infecting other non-bearded humans and dogs that have not been living in someone’s beard?

-And, finally, what if researchers just found 18 really nasty European dudes to experiment on and they don’t accurately reflect the hygienic qualities of the rest of the bearded world?

“Nikolay, want to make 50 Euros?”

“Who do I have to kill?”

“No one, just get in machine.”

“First let me wipe my hands on beard.”

Yes, there is certainly more work to be done in field of dirty bearded men and dog rear ends. I look forward to learning more in the future – if I am not fried to a crisp by a secret death ray beforehand.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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