Simply being told that some of our everyday objects may be hosts of invisible bacterial colonies may not be enough to motivate action. How much bacteria is really on there and dangerous is it really? We know that some types of bacteria are even considered beneficial, such as our own human gut bacteria, or the bacteria in yogurt and kombucha that aids in digestion. However, most of the typical types found on frequently used objects (i.e. smartphones and doorknobs) tend to be a rancid mixture teeming with infectious possibilities.
E. coli, which is a part of the Enterobacteriaceae family, is the most common gut bacteria found inside mammals, as well as being one of the main types of pathogens. It tends to live in mutual association with its host and is responsible for a large variety of diseases. 3 E. coli has a few defining characteristics as it is able to grow in aerobic and anaerobic environments, making it quite durable as well. 4 Some strains of E. coli are contagious and can be transmitted through contact of a contaminated object.
Staphylococcus aureus is cocci-shaped and they often are arranged in clusters. This organism can be grown in up to 10% salt, it has colonies that are golden, yellow in color. (aureus means golden or yellow). This bacteria can grow as the E.coli in aerobic and anaerobic environments and also at temperatures between 18C and 40C. Staphylococcus aureus can be found on mucous membranes and skin, and that is why humans are seen to have a flourishing amount of these organisms on them. It is estimated that up to half of all adults have colonies on them, and around 15% of the population constantly carry S. aureus in the anterior nares. Particular populations are seen to have higher rates of S. aureus colony growth which can reach up to 80%. S. aureus is the inflictor of multiple human infections, which includes skin and soft tissue infections. , 5
Salmonellosis spans from the common Salmonella gastroenteritis (diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever) to life-threatening illnesses (enteric fever) which are systemic and require antibiotics. Pathogenic salmonellae are ingested and survive the gastric acid barrier which allows them to enter the mucosa of the small and large intestines where they begin to create toxins. Breaching the epithelial cells begins an excretion of proinflammatory cytokines which create inflammation.
Klebsiella pneumoniae, also named Friedländer’s bacillus, was first described in 1882 by German microbiologist Carl Friedländer. K. pneumoniae is most commonly known for causing pneumonia. The disease is usually seen only in patients who have medical conditions such as alcoholism or chronic pulmonary disease (an infection that occurs in association with invasive treatment or long-term care in hospitals or other similar settings). 7
In order to distance ourselves from such bacterium, we wash our hands, normally with soap and water. The effectiveness of this method is less than may be expected as shown in an experiment done in Barcelona Spain, there was only a reduction of 49.6% of colonies in comparison to an alcoholic solution which showed a decrease of 88.2% of all colonies building upon the skin of the hand.8
The spreading of illnesses has been an aspect of everyone’s life since they were born. Viral illnesses are what people stay alert for in order to avoid becoming ill. Yet fomites are contaminated and come in contact with humans routinely. These pathogenic organisms use these fomites to latch on to the next person. Fomites are any object or surfaces that can be contaminated included are smartphones and door handles. The organisms are spread on through human secretion either blood feces, urine etc.. Within a milliliter of nasal fluid, sneezing or coughing can spread 107 virions and can get to a distance of 3m, contaminating the surrounding area. Other pathogens and particles can become aerosolized after a flush of a toilet meaning even being in the bathroom can have you breathing in contaminants. Many of the outbreaks of these contaminants are begun on surfaces including door knobs/handles. When infected 1011 virions can be found in a gram of stool 11. In a survey by CBS 10 around 75% of phone users use their smartphones on the toilet, meaning that many of these particles and contaminants can be found on phones and therefore be further transmitted. Also, E. coli can be transferred in this way as well making it abundant on smartphone screens.