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Mobile phones represent a pathway for microbial transmission: A scoping review

Olsen, M., Campos, M., Lohning, A., Jones, P., Legget, J., Bannach-Brown, A., McKirdy, S., Alghafri, R.ORCID: 0000-0002-8321-9678 and Tajouri, L. (2020) Mobile phones represent a pathway for microbial transmission: A scoping review. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 35 . Article 101704.

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Mobile phones have become an integral part of modern society. As possible breeding grounds for microbial organisms, these constitute a potential global public health risk for microbial transmission.

Scoping review of literature examining microbial's presence on mobile phones in both health care (HC) and community settings.

A search (PubMed&GoogleScholar) was conducted from January 2005–December 2019 to identify English language studies. Studies were included if samples from mobile phones were tested for bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses; and if the sampling was carried out in any HC setting, and/or within the general community. Any other studies exploring mobile phones that did not identify specific microorganisms were excluded.

A total of 56 studies were included (from 24 countries). Most studies identified the presence of bacteria (54/56), while 16 studies reported the presence of fungi. One study focused solely on RNA viruses. Staphylococcus aureus, and Coagulase-Negative Staphylococci were the most numerous identified organisms present on mobile phones. These two species and Escherichia coli were present in over a third of studies both in HC and community samples. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus, Acinetobacter sp., and Bacillus sp. were present in over a third of the studies in HC settings.

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.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Elsevier Ltd
Copyright: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd.
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