High Rate of Bacterial Contamination Found on Mobile Phones

March 17, 2009

A recent study found that almost 95 percent of healthcare workers’ (HCW) mobile phones are contaminated with bacteria.

A recent study found that almost 95 percent of healthcare workers’ (HCW) mobile phones are contaminated with bacteria.

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey conducted this study to determine the rate of contamination in operating rooms and ICUs. An additional aim was to evaluate the role of mobile phones in transmitting bacteria on the phones to the worker’s hands.

Researchers found that 49 percent of phones grew one species of bacteria; 34 percent grew two different species; and 11.5 percent had three or more different species. 5.5 percent were found to have no bacterial growth.

The study took place “in the eight beds of the mixed tertiary intensive care units and 14 operating rooms,” according to the article that was published online in PLoS ONE. Two hundred staff members were included in the study: 15 senior members, 79 assistant doctors, 38 nurses, and 68 healthcare staff.

Participants provided cultures from their dominant hands and their mobile phones at the same time. Researchers took note of gender, profession, duration of that profession, ring use, the HCW’s dominant hand, and routine cleaning of the mobile phone.

Nearly 90 percent of participants did not clean their phones. Only 10.5 percent of HCWs were recorded as routinely cleaning their phones.

The bacteria were also found to be nosocomial pathogens. S. aureus strains were isolated from over 50 percent of phones, and nearly 38 percent of samples from HCW’s hands were methicillin-resistant. Gram-negative strains were found on about 31 percent of phones and ceftazidime-resistant strains on 39.5 percent of hands.

Researchers said that, because of the study results, “it is obvious that the training of healthcare personnel about strict infection control procedure, hand hygiene, environmental disinfection, and eventually, optimum disinfection methods are of great importance.”

In addition, the researchers suggested some practices that may be put in place as a result of the findings.

“Developing active preventive strategies like routine decontamination of mobile phones with alcohol containing disinfectant materials might reduce cross-infection,” researchers noted in the journal article. “Another way of reducing bacterial contaminations on mobile phones might be the use of antimicrobial additive materials. We could easily avoid spreading bacterial infections just by using regular cleansing agents and rearranging our environment.”