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Potential of Mobile Phones to Serve as a Reservoir in Spread of Nosocomial Pathogens

Author(s): Sham S. Bhat | Sundeep Hegde K | Shailaja Salian

Journal: Online Journal of Health & Allied Sciences
ISSN 0972-5997

Volume: 10;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Mobile phones | Bacterial Contamination | Nosocomial Infection

Objective: The use of cellular telephones by medical personnel and the associated nosocomial transmission of pathogens have not been thoroughly examined. The objective of this study was to determine the incidence of bacterial colonisation on mobile phones of Healthcare workers (HCWs) and its accompanying resistance to commonly used antimicrobials in a medical and dental hospital in India. Method: A total of 204 mobile phones of HCWs from medical and dental departments were screened. A sterile swab moistened with sterile saline was rotated over the external surface of the phone. Swabs were cultured on 5% sheep blood agar and MacConkey agar plates. Plates were incubated aerobically at 37°C for 24 hours. All isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility. A questionnaire was used for data collection on mobile phone use in hospital. Result: 99% of the phones demonstrated evidence of bacterial contamination. 64.8% of medical samples showed growth of pathogenic micro-organisms and 37.9% showed growth of Multi drug resistant bacteria. 59.37% of dental samples showed growth of pathogenic micro-organisms and 43.75% showed growth of Multi drug resistant bacteria. Pathogens isolated included Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter, Enterococcus faecalis, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. According to the questionnaire 40% admitted to using their phones between examination of patients. Only 6% used disinfectants to wipe their phones. Conclusion: This study reveals that mobile phones are commonly used by HCWs, even during patient contact and may serve as a potential vehicle for the spread of nosocomial pathogens.
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