Mobile Phones: Reservoirs of Nosocomial Pathogens

Is your phone “bugged”? How “germy” is your phone? When was the last time you cleaned it? These are valid questions, considering that doctors bring their phones everywhere!

A study by Ulger et al. entitled “Are we aware how contaminated our mobile phones with nosocomial pathogens?” provides some answers.  Two hundred health care workers’ hands and mobile phones were cultured. These health personnel worked at the OR and ICU.  Eeeww, the bacterial contamination rate of mobile phones was a whopping 94.5%! Predictably, similar bacteria were isolated from phones and hands. Nearly half (49%) of the phones had one bacterial species while 34% had two different species.  And alarmingly, some of the phone isolates were resistant strains: 31.3% of the gram negatives were ceftazidime-resistant and 52% of the S. aureus strains were methicillin-resistant.

Only 10.5% of the participants routinely cleaned their phones. So that meant 89.5% never cleaned their phones, yucch!  Interestingly, participants who wore rings tended to have higher mean colony counts on their phones though it was not statistically significant.  The authors conclude that,

“Mobile phones used by health care workers in daily practice may be a source of nosocomial infections in hospitals.”

Obviously, we can’t ban cell phones from the hospital environment. But this serves as a reminder to all of us that we should not only adhere to the hospital’s hand washing policy but clean our phones regularly as well.  I don’t want to advertise anything here but one can find several phone-disinfecting wipes on the market. :)

Reference:

Ulger F, Esen S, Dilek A et al. Are we aware how contaminated our mobile phones with nosocomial pathogens? Annals of Clinical Microbiology & Antimicrobials 2009, 8:7

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