Saturday, July 31, 2010


After the computer key board, it is the turn of mobile phones now to receive critical attention from the pathologist community and if they are to be believed the ubiquitous mobile phone can be a serious source of microbiological hazard to users. It is understandable that the hand held mobile phone which is more or less a personal item of inventory can have accumulation of microorganisms derived mostly from the owner of the phone. The type of microbes and their density on the phone will depend on the personal hygiene and sanitation of the user and same can vary enormously. As this electronic gadget cannot be cleaned regularly except by wiping to remove dust, over a period of time there can be considerable accumulation of micro organisms on different parts on the surface. Touch phones are marginally better because they do not have the regular number buttons as seen in normal phones which can harbor considerable number of microbes. Therefore the recent report by a survey study in the UK highlighting the microbiological status of mobile phones should not come as a surprise.

"The findings from a sample of dozens of phones by Which? magazine suggest 14.7 million of the 63 million mobiles in use in Britain today could be potential health hazards, reports the Daily Mail. Hygiene expert Jim Francis, who carried out the tests, said: "The levels of potentially harmful bacteria on one mobile were off the scale. That phone needs sterilising." The most unhygienic phone also had 39 times the safe level of enterobacteria, a group of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of humans and animals and include bugs such as salmonella. It boasted 170 times the acceptable level of faecal coliforms, which are associated with human waste. Other bacteria including food poisoning bugs e.coli and staphylococcus aureus were found on the phones but at safe levels. Which? researcher Ceri Stanaway said: "The bugs can end up on your hands which is a breeding ground and be passed back to your phone. They can be transferred back and forth and eventually you could catch something nasty. "What this shows is how easy it is to come into contact with bacteria. People see toilet flushes as being something dirty to touch but they have less bacteria than phones. "People need to be mindful of that by observing good hygiene themselves and among others who they pass the phone to when looking at photos, for example." Which? has previously found that some computer keyboards carry more harmful bacteria than a lavatory seat".

While no one would have any quarrel with the scientific data generated by the study, there does not appear to be any reason for undue alarm because mobile phones are used more or less exclusively as a personal possession, not shared with others. Whatever microorganisms detected on each phone are from the person who owned it and therefore they are unlikely to pose any risk to that person who could be immune to them. Probably thousands of phone booths and cyber kiosks that work in India are more dangerous as more than 100 persons, on an average, with different health conditions use the telephone instruments daily and possibilities of spread of infection are far greater under such environments. Studies like the one cited above will have to be viewed in right perspective without causing alarm to the general public.

No comments: