man hands in gloves disinfecting smartphone, eliminating germs coronavirus bacteria

Mobile users handle their devices in several ways and in different environments. This can lead to increased contamination by various germs that may cause health problems for users.

But which groups of users are mostly at risk?

A research by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has found women’s mobile phones have slightly more germs as compared to their male counterparts.

The study yet to be published has found 64% germ load on their handset.

Between January and April 2019, researchers recruited over Fifty (50) university students having a mobile device.

“The bacterial burden difference was about a 100,000 and it was only for fifty students so it’s not statistically significant. If we’re able to swab about a 200, 300 or 1,000 phones, then maybe we can conclude better,” lead Scientist, Dr. Kingsley Badu pointed out.

The study was aimed at investigating the potency of mobile phones in harbouring and transmitting disease-causing germs.

For the study, data on their mobile phone-usage habits were collected by administering questionnaires.

The researchers took swab samples from the mobile phone surfaces for laboratory analysis.

According to the findings, 98.00% of the phones had at least one germ present.

Staphylococcus spp., a germ that can cause a number of infectious diseases like boils and food poisoning-was isolated from all the phones.

Bacteria such as E.coli which can cause diarrhea and Salmonella spp. responsible for food-borne diseases-were isolated from 53.06% of the phones.

Interestingly, age was significantly associated with the germ load.

Relatively younger students with average age of 18.5 years had higher phone germ load of 77.52% as opposed to the 2.24% (few participants) of older students having average age of 26.5 years.

Also, students within the Non-Health-or-Science Related programmes also recorded relatively higher mobile phone germ load of 63.43% as compared to their Health-or-Science-Related programmes counterparts.

Staphylococcus spp. was the most predominant germ from phones carried along to the washroom whereas E. coli was most prevalent on the surfaces of phones not taken to the washroom even though E. coli was isolated from the surfaces of phones in both instances.

“The phone bacterial pathogen burden recorded for those visiting washrooms with their mobile phones was 62.54% and those visiting washrooms without their mobile phones were 37.46%,” explained by  Sylvester Kofi Newton, one of the researchers.

The researchers are worried mobiles phones are capable of harbouring germs.

“The isolation of high levels of Staphylococcus spp., E. coli and Salmonella spp. from the mobile phone surfaces indicate that the users of these phones are at risk of infection,” researchers pointed out.

The researchers recommend regular disinfection of phones with 70% alcohol or alcohol-based sanitizers and practicing personal hygiene such as proper handwashing to reduce the germs on mobile phone surfaces.