News Release 

Dissemination of pathogenic bacteria by university student's cell phones

American Society for Microbiology

San Francisco, CA - June 21, 2019 - New research has demonstrated the presence of S. aureus in 40% of the cell phones of students sampled at a university. S. aureus is a common cause of hospital and community-based infections and is currently considered an important pathogen because of its level of antibiotic resistance. The research, conducted at the Western University of São Paulo, Brazil, is presented at ASM Microbe, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Of the bacteria isolated, 85% were resistant to the antibiotic penicillin and 50% had the ability to adhere to surfaces. In addition, the presence of genes related to adhesion, antimicrobial resistance and toxins were present a high level. Samples were collected from 100 cell phones of students from the Biomedicine (20), Pharmacy (20), Dentistry (20), Nutrition (20), and Nursing (20) courses. The vast majority of the bacteria isolated belonged to students of the nursing course.

Nursing students are very likely to become carriers of S. aureus since clinical practice in hospital settings is part of their coursework and exposure to occupational hazards is inherent to this setting, which could favor the colonization and contamination of the surface of cell devices. Cell phones used in healthcare environments allow for the transmission of bacteria that harbor genes of virulence and resistance, contributing to increasing the infection rates as well as an increase in the morbidity/mortality from these infections.

"The widespread use of cell devices in hospitals and healthcare settings has raised major concerns about nosocomial infections, especially in areas requiring the highest standards of hygiene, such as the operating room," said Lizziane Kretli, Professor at the Western University of São Paulo, Brazil. Students in the health area attend practical classes and clinical stages where they have direct contact with samples, objects, and clinical environments containing pathogenic microorganisms.

Cell phones are an indispensable accessory in the professional and social life of a large part of the population. In the medical field they are considered an integral part of the life of health professionals and have improved communication, collaboration, and information sharing.

"In this context, cell phones may thus serve as a reservoir of bacteria known to cause nosocomial infections and could play a role in their transmission to patients through the hands of health professionals," said Kretli.

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This study was supervised by Professor Lizziane Kretli Winkelstroter Eller in Western University of São Paulo/ Brazil. This work was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP (2018/08097-7). The complete results will be presented in ASM Microbe 2019 at San Francisco, California at Friday, June 21, 2019: 11 am - 12 pm and 4 pm - 5 pm in the Poster Session.

ASM Microbe is the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held June 20th through 24th in San Francisco, California.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

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