Bacteria on smartphone touchscreens in a German university setting and evaluation of two popular cleaning methods using commercially available cleaning products

Abstract

Smartphone touchscreens are known as pathogen carriers in clinical environments. However, despite a rapidly growing number of smartphone users worldwide, little is known about bacterial contamination of smartphone touchscreens in non-clinical settings. Such data are needed to better understand the hygienic relevance of these increasingly popular items. Here, 60 touchscreens of smartphones provided by randomly chosen students of a German university were sampled by directly touching them with contact agar plates. The average bacterial load of uncleaned touchscreens was 1.37 ± 0.33 CFU/cm2. Touchscreens wiped with commercially available microfiber cloths or alcohol-impregnated lens wipes contained significantly less bacteria than uncleaned touchscreens, i.e., 0.22 ± 0.10 CFU/cm2 and 0.06 ± 0.02 CFU/cm2, respectively. Bacteria isolated from cleaned and uncleaned touchscreens were identified by means of MALDI Biotyping. Out of 111 bacterial isolates, 56 isolates (50 %) were identified to genus level and 27 (24 %) to species level. The vast majority of the identified bacteria were typical human skin, mouth, lung, and intestinal commensals, mostly affiliated with the genera Staphylococcus and Micrococcus. Five out of 10 identified species were opportunistic pathogens. In conclusion, the touchscreens investigated here showed low bacterial loads and a species spectrum that is typical for frequently touched surfaces in domestic and public environments, the general health risk of which is still under debate.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank all students who participated in the study and provided their smartphones for microbiological analyses as well as Dr. Wayne Young (AgResearch, Palmerston North, NZ) for English suggestions.

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Correspondence to Markus Egert.

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Egert, M., Späth, K., Weik, K. et al. Bacteria on smartphone touchscreens in a German university setting and evaluation of two popular cleaning methods using commercially available cleaning products. Folia Microbiol 60, 159–164 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12223-014-0350-2

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Keywords

  • Healthcare Worker
  • Bacterial Load
  • Colony Count
  • Cleaning Method
  • Heterotrophic Plate Count