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Mobile phones are hazardous microbial platforms warranting robust public health and biosecurity protocols

Olsen, M., Nassar, R., Senok, A., Moloney, S., Lohning, A., Jones, P., Grant, G., Morgan, M., Palipana, D., McKirdy, S., Alghafri, R.ORCID: 0000-0002-8321-9678 and Tajouri, L. (2022) Mobile phones are hazardous microbial platforms warranting robust public health and biosecurity protocols. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). Art. 10009.

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Advancements in technology and communication have revolutionised the twenty-first century with the introduction of mobile phones and smartphones. These phones are known to be platforms harbouring microbes with recent research shedding light on the abundance and broad spectrum of organisms they harbour. Mobile phone use in the community and in professional sectors including health care settings is a potential source of microbial dissemination. To identify the diversity of microbial genetic signature present on mobile phones owned by hospital medical staff. Twenty-six mobile phones of health care staff were swabbed. DNA extraction for downstream next generation sequencing shotgun metagenomic microbial profiling was performed. Survey questionnaires were handed to the staff to collect information on mobile phone usage and users’ behaviours. Each of the 26 mobile phones of this study was contaminated with microbes with the detection of antibiotic resistance and virulent factors. Taken together the sum of microbes and genes added together across all 26 mobile phones totalised 11,163 organisms (5714 bacteria, 675 fungi, 93 protists, 228 viruses, 4453 bacteriophages) and 2096 genes coding for antibiotic resistance and virulent factors. The survey of medical staff showed that 46% (12/26) of the participants used their mobile phones in the bathroom. Mobile phones are vectors of microbes and can contribute to microbial dissemination and nosocomial diseases worldwide. As fomites, mobile phones that are not decontaminated may pose serious risks for public health and biosecurity.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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