Background: Global burden of hospital-associated infection (HAI) is on the rise and contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality of the patients. Mobile phones are indispensible part of communication among doctors and other health care workers (HCWs) in hospitals. Hands of HCWs play an important role in transmission of HAI and mobile phones which are seldom cleaned and often touched during or after the examination of patients without hand washing can act as a reservoir for transmission of potent pathogens. This study aimed to investigate the rate of bacterial contamination of mobile phones among HCWs in our tertiary care hospital and to compare it with personal mobile phones of non-HCWs (control group).
Materials and methods: The mobile phones and dominant hands of 386 participants were sampled from four different groups, hospital doctors and staff (132), college faculty and staff (54), medical students (100) and control group (100). Informed consent and questionnaire was duly signed by all the participants. Samples were processed according to standard guidelines.
Results: 316 mobile phones (81.8%) and 309 hand swab samples (80%) showed growth of bacterial pathogens. The most predominant isolates were Coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter species, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas species and Enterococcus species.
Conclusion: Hundred percent contamination was found in mobile phones and hands of HCWs indicating mobile phones can be the potential source of nosocomial pathogens. Our study results suggest that use of mobile phones in health care setup should be restricted only for emergency calls. Strict adherence to infection control policies such as proper hand hygiene practices should be followed.
Keywords: Acinetobacter; cell phones; health care workers; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; nosocomial pathogens.