ASM Microbe
ASM Microbe
June 21, 2019
1 min read

S. aureus prevalent on cell phones of nursing students

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SAN FRANCISCO — Staphylococcus aureus was present on 40% of sampled cell phones of university students, mostly belonging to nursing students, according to findings presented at ASM Microbe.

“This would be dangerous, especially for patients or people who are immunocompromised or sick,” Lizziane Kretli, PhD, a professor at the University of Western São Paulo, told Infectious Disease News. “We need to take care of this.”

A previous study conducted in the medical ICU at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania found that more than half of sampled ICU stethoscopes tested positive for S. aureus. Elsewhere, researchers from a study conducted in a French hospital reported that 39% of health care workers’ cell phones were contaminated with epidemic viruses.

For the current study, researchers collected samples from 100 cell phones belonging to university students taking courses in biomedicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nutrition and nursing. The samples were tested for the presence of Escherichia coli and S. aureus, antimicrobial susceptibility and biofilm formation.

Photo of a nursing student with a cell phone 
A majority of cell phones sampled for S. aureus belonged to nursing students.
Source: Adobe Stock

S. aureus was detected in 40% of the samples, of which 70% were collected from cell phones belonging to nursing students — possibly resulting from coursework that includes clinical practice in a hospital. The researchers did not observe the presence of E. coli in any of the samples.

They reported that 85% of the samples were resistant to penicillin and half were classified with moderate biofilm formation.

The researchers noted that improved cell phone hygiene could lead to a reduction in health care-associated infections, but more research is needed to study the issue.

“Today, cell phones are essential. Even on the medical side or the health side, we need these. It’s important for information,” Kretli said. “As for the next steps, we will probably search how to handle this, like disinfection or hygienization of the cell phones to clean up and try to get rid of these bugs.” – by Marley Ghizzone


Souza GM, et al. Dissemination of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by university student’s cell phones; Presented at: ASM Microbe; June 20-24, 2019; San Francisco.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.