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07-06-2011 | General practice | Article

Patients’ and their companions’ mobile phones pose infection threat


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MedWire News: Mobile phones belonging to hospital patients, their companions, and visitors may pose an infection risk, with study results showing that they colonize significantly higher rates of pathogens compared with phones belonging to healthcare workers.

Furthermore, there were more multidrug-resistant pathogens in the patients' mobile phones compared with those belonging to the healthcare workers, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli, and carabepenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanii.

"Hospital-acquired infection is an increasing global concern for patient safety," say Mehmet Tekerekoglu (Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey) and colleagues.

"Although there is still no study that evidently shows the link between bacterial colonization on the mobile phones and hospital-acquired infection, presence of a pathogen in hospital environment[s] is principally considered as a potential threat for infection development," they add.

The team investigated the potential threat of infection on hospital wards from mobile phones belonging to persons in their university-affiliated medical center, including patients, their companions and visitors, and healthcare workers.

Tekerekoglu and co-workers collected swab samples from the keypad, microphone, and ear parts of 67 mobile phones belonging to medical employees, and 133 phones belonging to patients, their companions, and visitors.

Bacterial growth was detected on 85.6% of mobile phones belonging to the healthcare-worker group and 90.1% of the patient group, report the researchers in the American Journal of Infection Control. The most frequently isolated bacteria was coagulese negative staphylococci (n=52 healthcare workers, n=11 patients).

Analysis revealed that significantly more pathogenic bacteria colonized on the patient and companion group's mobile phones compared with the healthcare workers phones, at 39.6% versus 20.6%.

"In addition to medical personnel, infection control professionals must consider patients' mobile phones as a potential source of infection," say the authors.

Moreover, a higher number of multidrug resistant pathogens were identified on patients compared with employees phones, at seven versus zero/none, respectively.

Many infection control measures have been introduced into the hospital environment in recent years, but successful disinfection using traditional methods may not be easily achieved for mobile phones in light of their sensitivity to liquid and high temperatures, remark Tekerekoglu et al.

"Although we have not carried out any study about the mobile phones' disinfection, we suggest ultraviolet irradiation as an alternative, fast, and frequently applicable method for disinfection of the mobile phones," they conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Sarah Guy

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