Cellphones May Be Important Vector For Viruses and Microbial Contamination: Study

New research indicates cellphones could be a major vector for the spread of microbial infections and viruses, highlighting concerns amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a study published in the medical journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, researchers from Australia and the United Arab Emirates warn mobile phones could “constitute a potential global health risk for microbial transmission.”

Researchers reviewed studies examining the presence of bacteria on cell phones in both health care and community settings. The search identified 56 studies from 24 countries published from 2005 to 2019.

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The findings indicate nearly 70% of cell phones were contaminated with a wide range of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa; some of which were resistant to antibiotics.

The contaminant most often identified was staphylococcus bacteria. Staph and E. coli were present in over one-third of samples from cell phones in studies of both healthcare and community samples.

Methicillin-resistant S. Aureaus (MRSA), acinetobacter sp., and Bacillus sp. were also present in over one-third of samples in healthcare settings.

The studies did not specifically address SARS-CoV-2, the virus strain responsible for COVID-19 disease, since the study focused on research conducted before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the findings indicate cell phones contribute to the transmission of microbial infections in epidemics and pandemics, leading researchers to conclude it may be a mode of transmission for COVID-19, as the virus can live on glass, plastic, and stainless steel for days.

“While this scoping review of literature regarding microbial identification on mobile phones in HC and community settings did not directly address the issue of SARS-CoV-2 responsible for COVID-19, this work exposes the possible role of mobile phones as a ‘Trojan horse’ contributing to the transmission of microbial infections in epidemics and pandemics,” the researchers concluded.

Cell phones are receptive hosts for germs mainly because people rarely clean the devices and take them everywhere with them, often holding them in their hands, including where people eat, sleep and in the bathroom.

Researchers warn that no other type of everyday object can compete with cellphones as an item that can so easily spread germs.

The devices are repeatedly exposed to material exhaled from our mouth and nose and spend hours in our hands even between washes during highly contaminated activities.

Experts say cell phones should be cleaned regularly to cut the risk of coronavirus transmission or transmission of other infectious microorganisms Users should disinfect their phone using a soft microfiber cloth with 70% ethanol or use a nonabrasive disinfectant wipe. After disinfecting the phone, users should wash their hands vigorously with soap and water and avoid touching their face, especially the nose and eyes, with their hands.


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