A new study suggests that you may be walking away from a hotel room with more than just a free pen or a towel -- you may have picked up someone else's fecal matter.

According to the study, which was presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, researchers from the University of Houston swabbed down 19 areas in various hotel rooms, including remote controls, telephones and door handles, and found that more than 81 percent of the surfaces held the fecal bacterium E. coli, ABC News reported.

Katie Kirsch, a student at the University of Houston and author of the study, said in a statement, "Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry-wide."

She said the study "could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards … and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices."

Researchers said they determined that maid carts may be to blame when it comes to contamination. The study found the bacteria blooming on the carts as well as on the cleaning supplies carried on the carts, such as mops and sponges used to tidy up hotel rooms.

ABC News reported that hotel housekeepers are usually tasked with cleaning about 16 rooms in an eight-hour shift -- averaging just 30 minutes per room.

According to Kirsch, minimizing the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination comes down to better cleaning and awareness of the dangers.

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