December 02, 2019
2 min read

Researchers test silver-coated screens to protect cell phones from contamination

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Researchers tested the ability of a silver-coated antimicrobial screen to protect the cell phones of resident physicians against pathogens and found that the phones’ microbial diversity decreased significantly when tested at day 7 compared with days 0 and 30, but testing on day 30 showed no change in the microbiome of the phone screen.

They said the screens merit further testing.

“There has been an alarming rise in antibiotic resistance amongst several pathogens, particularly within the hospital setting,” Alexander W. McCumber, a PhD student at Duke University, told Infectious Disease News. “In the hope of reducing personal exposure and transmission, companies have been turning to new technologies that have microbicidal properties such as nanosilver and incorporating them into everyday items.”

McCumber noted a need for real-world evaluation of many of these products to determine the impact on patient care as well as antimicrobial resistance.

“This study tracked changes in bacterial communities on the surfaces of resident physician’s cell phones as a proxy for the effectiveness of a silver-coated bactericidal glass cover,” McCumber said.

The researchers enrolled 26 resident physicians and collected initial samples from the palms of their hands and the front and back of their cell phones. They then sterilized each phone and applied an BioArmor Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass Screen Shield screen cover (Corning; Corning, New York). They sampled hands and phones again at day 7 and day 30.

The researchers observed no major shifts in the overall microbial community structure of the cell phones. On day 7, McCumber and colleagues detected one significant time point with microbial diversity between different samples when comparing swab samples taken from the screen side of the phone with samples taken from the back side of the phone (P = .03).

According to the study, samples taken from the front and back of the same phone revealed a decrease in the diversity of microbes within a sample on day 7 compared with days 0 and 30. The researchers observed no increase in silver- or antibiotic-resistance genes. Cutibacterium, Delftia, Lawsonella, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus were the five most abundant genera found in samples taken from the screen sides of the phones, they reported.

“In real-world use, products with integrated antimicrobials have [been] shown to be ineffective in several studies,” McCumber said. “While this particular cell phone cover warrants further investigation, proper hand hygiene is still the most important way to prevent pathogen transmission and reduce nosocomial infections.” – by Marley Ghizzone

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include the correct brand of screen cover used in the study. The authors mistakenly reported a different product in their initial journal article.