Real danger of cell phones in hospitals: bacteria

Posted on Sep 30, 2011 in Health & Wellness, Uncategorized

June 01, 2011
by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor
The World Health Organization’s Tuesday report suggesting that cell phone radiation was “possibly carcinogenic to humans” has made headlines, but a new study warns that, in hospitals, the real danger might lie with the drug-resistant bacteria mobile phones can harbor.Writing in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, doctors say that at their hospital in Turkey, sizable numbers of patient and provider mobile phones tested positive for pathogens.While previous research has suggested health care personnel’s phones could be a potential source for germs, the researchers found patients’ phones were twice as likely to be contaminated. Patient cell phones were also the only ones to show evidence of multidrug resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

“The types of bacteria that were found on the patients’ [mobile phones] and their resistance patterns were very worrisome,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Mehmet Sait Tekerekoğlu of the Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey.

In the study, nearly 40 percent of the 133 patient phones analyzed tested positive for germs, while only 21 percent medical personnel phones tested positive. Also, seven patient phones tested positive for MDR, but no providers’ phones did.

“Our findings suggest that mobile phones of patients, patients’ companions and visitors represent higher risk for nosocomial pathogen colonization than those of [health care workers]. Specific infection control measures may be required for this threat,” the authors said.

About one in four patients admitted to hospitals in developing countries contracts a hospital-acquired infection, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, or APIC. In the United States, there are 1.7 million such infections every year, which are associated with nearly 100,000 deaths.