Smart phones are integral , especially within healthcare. However, there are increasing concerns regarding their contamination and potential infection control risk. Bacteria under selective pressure can rapidly acquire resistant mechanisms leading to the assumption; mobile phones used within clinical environment may harbour bacteria associated with a higher infection mortality rate.

Using next generation sequencing technology, characterise the true extent of bacterial contamination on mobile phones of hospital staff and determine the presence of multi-drug resistant bacteria associated with hospital acquired infections.

DNA was extracted from the swab tips of 450 Particpant’s mobile phones. 16S rRNA primers were used to characterise and compare the microbiome on devices from the hospital staff and a control group. and underwent Kirby Baur disc diffusion.

Results The microbiome revealed the extent of contamination far exceeds anything previously reported. In particular, gram-negative bacteria (including several important potential pathogens) were grossly under detected. 198 bacteria genus were discovered on mobile phones of which 34 were unique to the hospital. Differences were also detected between hospital departments. MRSA, VRSA and VRE were only detected within the hospital group.

Our results indicate traditional culture-dependent swabbing methods don’t provide an accurate account of mobile phone contamination. This may also be true in other areas relevant to infection control. Used within clinical environments could expose patients to unknown levels of multi drug resistant bacteria. Decontamination between patient contact should be a necessity to prevent the undermining of hand hygiene and the transmission of MDR bacteria.


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