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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 44  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 289-290

Microbial contamination of cell phones in surgery ward of a tertiary care hospital in South India

Department of Microbiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission21-May-2019
Date of Acceptance16-Sep-2019
Date of Web Publication20-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Udayalaxmi Jeppu
Department of Microbiology, Kasturba Medical College, Light House Hill Road, Mangalore - 575 001, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_68_19

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How to cite this article:
Ganesh A, Jeppu U. Microbial contamination of cell phones in surgery ward of a tertiary care hospital in South India. Indian J Community Med 2019;44:289-90

How to cite this URL:
Ganesh A, Jeppu U. Microbial contamination of cell phones in surgery ward of a tertiary care hospital in South India. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 9];44:289-90. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2019/44/3/289/267360


Hospital-acquired infections by the superbugs or antibiotic-resistant organisms are on the rise in today's world.[1] This risk depends on the ability of pathogens to remain viable on a surface and the rate at which contaminated surfaces are touched by patients and health-care workers.[1],[2]

Cell phones have become essential in the medical setting of today to improve communication and as a means for constant information update. However, the extensive use of cell phones by medical professionals can act as a means for transmission of nosocomial agents through their fingers and hands while dealing with patients.[1],[2] The purpose of the study is to bring about awareness among health-care professionals regarding this and possible means of prevention.

This cross-sectional study was conducted over a period of 2 months in a tertiary care hospital in South India. The participants were divided into two groups: the test group included professionals who have worked in the surgery ward of the hospital under study, for a minimum period of 3 months, and the control group included nonhealth-care professionals such as rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers. Purposive sampling technique was used. With 95% confidence level and 80% power, P = 60% with reference to a past study, the sample size came to be 66 in each group.[2] We included only those who used their mobile phones for a minimum period of 3 months. The institutional ethics committee clearance was obtained, informed consent of the participants was taken, and they were made to answer a questionnaire.

Sterile cotton-tipped swabs were dipped in 1 ml sterile saline, swabbed over the sides of the cell phones, rolled over blood agar and MacConkey agar plates, and incubated overnight at 37°C. The colonies obtained were identified using standard techniques.[3] Antibiotic sensitivity testing was done using Kirby–Bauer disc diffusion method.[4]

Double-disc approximation test was for extended-spectrum beta-lactamase determination for the Klebsiella spp. and  Escherichia More Details coli isolates.[4] Cefoxitin 30 μg disc was used to determine methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).[4]D-test was used to determine the inducible clindamycin resistance in S. aureus.[4] Chi-square test was used for the comparison across the groups, and P < 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.

Of the 66 forming the test group, 27 (41%) yielded no growth and 39 (59%) yielded scanty bacterial growth. Among the 66 forming the control group, 16 (24.2%) yielded no growth and 50 (75.8%) yielded bacterial growth. Most of the mobile phones yielded coagulase-negative Staphylococcus (CONS). Only three mobile phones yielded MRSA. All the three belonged to the participants of the test group [Figure 1]. One of the MRSA isolates was D-test positive showing inducible clindamycin resistance. The other two isolates were clindamycin and erythromycin resistant but vancomycin and teicoplanin sensitive. Our results are consistent with the studies conducted in the past.[2],[5]
Figure 1: Different organisms isolated from the mobile phones of participants of test and control groups

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We did not get a statistically relevant correlation when positive answers to all the questions asked through questionnaire were compared with the growth or no growth yielded by their mobile phones [Table 1]. However the mobile phone of most of the participants who practiced hand hygiene before and after mobile phone use, yielded no growth (P = 0.054).
Table 1: Positive answers for the questionnaire by the participants compared with the growth (n=89) or no growth (n=43) yielded by their mobile phones

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There was more awareness among participants of the test group that the mobile phones can become sources of hospital-acquired infection and most of them ensure hand hygiene before using cell phones (P < 0.001). Of the three mobile phones that yielded MRSA, all three owners were aware that mobile phones can become a source of infection and only one of these used hand hygiene before and after mobile phone use.

Mobile phones of participants of the control group yielded other than CONS, Klebsiella spp., and nonfermenting Gram-negative bacilli. Of the six mobile phones of participants of the control group that yielded heavy growth of Klebsiella spp., two of the owners were aware that mobile phones can be the source of infection and none of them followed hand hygiene. A past study showed a reduction in the number of bacteria when the cell phones were disinfected with isopropyl alcohol.[6] However, cleaning the mobile phone is not practically possible. Most of the test candidates of our study used hand hygiene either alcoholic hand sanitizer or soap and water.

To conclude, handwashing before and after cell phone use by a medical professional can decrease the rate of hospital-acquired infections. More studies of this type will surely bring about increased awareness among health-care professionals reducing the rate of hospital-associated infections.

Financial support and sponsorship

This study was financially supported by ICMR STS 2016-00405.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Cataño JC, Echeverri LM, Szela C. Bacterial contamination of clothes and environmental items in a third-level hospital in Colombia. Interdiscip Perspect Infect Dis 2012;2012:507640.  Back to cited text no. 1
Pal S, Juyal D, Adekhandi S, Sharma M, Prakash R, Sharma N, et al. Mobile phones: Reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens. Adv Biomed Res 2015;4:144.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Betty AF, Daniel FS, Alice SW, editors. Overview of bacterial identification methods and strategies. In: Bailey and Scott's Diagnostic Microbiology. 12th ed.. St. Louis, Missouri: Morby Elsevier; 2007. p. 216-50.  Back to cited text no. 3
National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards. Performance Standards for Antimicrobial disk Susceptibility Testing; 25th Informational Supplement M100-S25. Vol. 35. Wayne, PA, USA: National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards; 2015. p. 67.  Back to cited text no. 4
Selim HS, Abaza AF. Microbial contamination of mobile phones in a health care setting in Alexandria, Egypt. GMS Hyg Infect Control 2015;10:Doc03.  Back to cited text no. 5
Singh S, Acharya S, Bhat M, Rao SK, Pentapati KC. Mobile phone hygiene: Potential risks posed by use in the clinics of an Indian dental school. J Dent Educ 2010;74:1153-8.  Back to cited text no. 6


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  [Table 1]


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