Taking Screenshots of the Invisible: A Study on Bacterial Contamination of Mobile Phones from University Students of Healthcare Professions in Rome, Italy

Microorganisms. 2020 Jul 19;8(7):1075. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8071075.


Mobile phones (MPs) are commonly used both in the personal and professional life. We assessed microbiological contamination of MPs from 108 students in healthcare professions (HPs), in relation to their demographic characteristics and MPs handling habits, collected by means of a questionnaire. Cultural and biochemical tests were performed, and statistical analyses were carried out. Staphylococci were present in 85% of MPs, Enterococci in 37%, Coliforms in 6.5%; E. coli was never detected. Staphylococcus epidermidis was the most frequently isolated staphylococcal species (72% of MPs), followed by S. capitis (14%), S. saprophyticus, S. warneri, S. xylosus (6%), and by S. aureus (4%). Heterotrophic Plate Counts (HPC) at 37 °C, ranged from 0 to 1.2 × 104 CFU/dm2 (mean = 362 CFU/dm2). In univariate analysis, the male gender only was significantly associated with higher HPCs and enterococcal contamination. Multiple linear regression models explained only 17% and 16% of the HPC 37 °C and staphylococcal load variability, respectively. Developing specific guidelines for a hygienic use of MPs in clinical settings, for preventing cross-infection risks, is advisable, as well as introducing specific training programs to HP students. MPs decontamination procedures could also be implemented in the community.

Keywords: Staphylococcaceae; cell phone; cross infection; epidemic; fomites; health occupations; hygiene; students.