Viability of hospital pathogens on mobile phone

  • Rebecca Simmonds - Cavanagh
    Address correspondence to Rebecca Simmonds - Cavanagh, PhD, The University of South Wales, Applied Biology Research, Upper Glyn Taff Campus, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales
    The University of South Wales, Applied Biology Research, Upper Glyn Taff Campus, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales
    Search for articles by this author
Published:November 15, 2021DOI:


      • E. Coli, P. aeruginosa and S. aureus exhibited a (log1) decline within the first hour.
      • Bacteria remain viable on mobile phones for at least 6 hours.
      • Many bacteria associated with HAI were detected at 28 days in low numbers.
      • The most successful pathogenic bacteria to remain viable at the 28 day was B. cereus.
      • A rapid viability decline was seen in MSSA within the first 6 hours compared to MRSA.


      Clinical use of mobile phones have increased exponentially. Whilst evidence of contamination is documented, a key factor when determining potential risks of contamination, is establishing the duration the organism remains viable on the device. If pathogens are found to persist for extended duration, healthcare mobile phones may become fomites for cross departmental transmission.


      Determine the duration pathogenic bacteria, Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, two Pseudomonas sp. Bacillus cereus, Enterococcus faecalis susceptible and resistant to vancomycin (VSE and VRE) Staphylococcus aureus susceptible and resistant to methicillin (MSSA and MRSA), and a coagulase negative Staphylococcus (CoNs) can remain viable on a mobile phone under controlled conditions.


      Phones were inoculated with 106 – 107 of each bacterium. The duration of viability was measured from the point the inoculum had dried and CFUs retrieved at timed intervals over 28 days.


      The mean percentage of bacteria viable at each time point was significantly different (20mins, P = .004, 1 hour P = .014, 6 hours P = .006, 24 hours P = .004, 7 days P = .007, 14 days P = .003, 21 days P = .002- and 28 days P = .004). Gram-positive bacteria remained viable longer than gram-negative bacteria (P = .010). MSSA declined faster than MRSA within the first 6 hours (P = .036).


      The extended duration of bacterial viability indicates the ability for pathogens to persist on a device and remain viable long enough to be transmitted to new areas both within the hospital and out to the community. Mobile phone decontamination should occur in combination of hand hygiene.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Infection Control
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Ammenwerth E
        • Buchauer A
        • Bludau B
        • Haux R
        Mobile information and communication tools in the hospital.
        Int. J. Med. Inform. 2000; 57: 21-40
        • Pillet S.
        • Berthelot P
        • Gagneux-Brunon A
        • et al.
        Contamination of healthcare workers’ mobile phones by epidemic viruses.
        Clin Microbiol Infect. 2016; 22: 456.e1-456.e6
        • Simmonds R.
        • Lee D
        • Hayhurst E
        Mobile phones as fomites for potential pathogens in hospitals: microbiome analysis reveals hidden contaminants.
        J Hosp Infect. 2020; 104: 207-213
        • Kramer A.
        • Schwebke I
        • Kampf G
        How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review.
        BMC Infect Dis. 2006; 6 (BMC Infect Dis, 16): 16
        • Russotto V.
        • Cortegiani A
        • Raineri SM
        • Giarratano A
        Bacterial contamination of inanimate surfaces and equipment in the intensive care unit.
        J Intens Care. 2015; 3: 54
        • Hirai Y.
        Survival of bacteria under dry conditions; from a viewpoint of nosocomial infection.
        J Hosp Infect. 1991; 19: 191-200
        • Falk P.S.
        • Winnike J
        • Woodmansee C
        • Desai M
        • Mayhall CG
        Outbreak of vancomycin-resistant enterococci in a burn unit.
        Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2000; 21: 575-582
        • Matsuo M.
        • Oie S
        • Furukawa H
        Contamination of blood pressure cuffs by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus and preventive measures.
        Ir J Med Sci. 2013; 182: 707-709
        • Levin P.D.
        • Shatz O
        • Sviri S
        • et al.
        Contamination of portable radiograph equipment with resistant bacteria in the ICU.
        Chest. 2009; 136: 426-432
        • Whittington A.M.
        • Whitlow G
        • Hewson D
        • Thomas C
        • Brett SJ
        Bacterial contamination of stethoscopes on the intensive care unit.
        Anesthesia. 2009; 64: 620-624
      1. WHO Global Action Plan on AMR.
        WHO, 2016
        • Meadow J.F.
        • Altrichter AE
        • Green JL
        Mobile phones carry the personal microbiome of their owners.
        PeerJ. 2014; 2014
        • Ulger F.
        • Dilek A
        • Esen S
        • Sunbul M
        • Leblebicioglu H
        Are healthcare workers’ mobile phones a potential source of nosocomial infections? Review of the literature.
        J Infect Dev Countries. 2015; 9: 1046-1053
        • Brady R.R.
        • Hunt AC
        • Visvanathan A
        • et al.
        Mobile phone technology and hospitalized patients: a cross-sectional surveillance study of bacterial colonization, and patient opinions and behaviours.
        Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011; 17: 830-835
        • Goldblatt JG
        • Krief I
        • Klonsky T
        • et al.
        Use of cellular telephones and transmission of pathogens by medical staff in New York and Israel.
        Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2007; 28: 500-503
      2. S. V and S. R. (PDF) Bacterial contamination of mobile phones of health care workers in a tertiary care hospital 2015. Available at: Accessed June 3, 2020.

      3. W. H. A. I. P. (WHAIP), Welsh healthcare associated infection programme (WHAIP) - all wales commentary: caesarean section SSI report 2007. Accessed June 4, 2020.

        • Pitt T.L.
        • McClure J
        • Parker MD
        • Amézquita A
        • McClure PJ
        “Bacillus Cereus in Personal Care Products: Risk to Consumers,” International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 37. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2015: 165-174
        • Potts M.
        • Slaughter SM
        • Hunneke FU
        • Garst JF
        • Helm RF
        Desiccation tolerance of prokaryotes: application of principles to human cells.
        Integr Comp Biol. 2005; 45: 800-809
      4. CDC, Cleaning and disinfecting your facility, 2020, vol. 2019, pp. 1–3, 2020. Accessed May 12, 2021.

        • Jawad A.
        • Heritage J
        • Snelling AM
        • Gascoyne-Binzi DM
        • Hawkey PM
        Influence of relative humidity and suspending menstrua on survival of Acinetobacter spp. on dry surfaces.
        J Clin Microbiol. 1996; 34: 2881-2887
        • Jawad A H.P.
        • Seifert H
        • Snelling AM
        • Heritage J
        Survival of Acinetobacter baumannii on dry surfaces: comparison of outbreak and sporadic isolates.
        J Clin Microbiol. 1998; 36: 1938-1941
        • Hernando-Amado S.
        • Sanz-García F
        • Blanco P
        • Martínez JL
        Fitness Costs Associated With the Acquisition of Antibiotic Resistance,” Essays in Biochemistry. 61. Portland Press Ltd, 2017: 37-48
      5. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Accessed May 26, 2021.