New study highlights need to regularly clean phones for infection control protocols

A study carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), in collaboration with Dubai Police and Australia’s Bond University in Queensland, has highlighted the need for mobile phones and smartwatch sanitisation to be included in global infection control protocols for the betterment of public health.

New research indicates that hand hygiene practices are negated if wearable devices remain unsanitised. Smart devices, like mobile phones and smartwatches, are a potential breeding ground for disease-causing pathogens since warm temperatures and high-touch surfaces are ideal conditions for germs to thrive.

Researchers recommend regularly sanitising the smartphone with an alcohol wipe to remove as much bacteria as possible.

Professor Abiola Senok, Chair of Basic Medical Sciences and Professor of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at MBRU’s College of Medicine, commented, “Our phones are never far from our sides; we take them everywhere with us. We all need to regularly clean our mobile phones and smartwatches as much as we do our own hands.”

In this recent scientific study, researchers from MBRU and Dubai Police examined the extent of microbial contamination on smart devices in an emergency medical unit. Samples taken from mobile phones and smartwatches, along with samples of the hands of healthcare workers, were investigated using next-generation metagenomics sequencing technology to enable researchers to identify which organisms are contaminating these devices.

“Our research findings showed that organisms identified from the hands of healthcare workers were also detected on their mobile phones and smartwatches,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Rashed Alghafri, Director of the International Centre for Forensic Sciences in the General Department of Forensic Evidence and Criminology at Dubai Police.

Some microorganisms identified on healthcare workers’ wearable tech were multidrug-resistant pathogenic bacteria. Among the randomly selected mobile phones tested, one from the unit’s COVID-19 zone showed positive SARS-CoV-2 detection.

“The presence of these microbes poses a risk of pathogen transfer to patients and the community. Infection control protocols, like mobile phone sanitation, could reduce this risk,” Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Alghafri added.

Dr. Lotti Tajouri, Associate Professor at Bond University in the field of Molecular Genetics and a member of the Dubai Police Scientific Council, said, “Our findings are also important for global public health as organisms on the surface of mobile phones and smartwatches can be carried across international borders by travellers.”

Dr. Tajouri said that sanitation protocols, such as ultraviolet C sanitisation devices in public spaces and airports, should be investigated to mitigate the risk of microbial contamination and dissemination on smart devices.

Collaborative research projects that advance health for humanity are a hallmark of the Dubai Academic Health Corporation (DAHC). Established over a year ago, the DAHC strengthens the bridge between academia, clinicians, and industry to translate research findings into improved patient care.

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