iPhone and Android users warned of hidden danger lurking on their phones

iPhone and Android users warned of hidden danger lurking on their phones (Image: Getty)

If you don’t clean your phone regularly, your device could resemble a petri dish of pathogens, with some potentially causing illnesses like pneumonia and skin infections. That’s the worrying news released in research from SellCell.com, a phone & tech trade-in site in the US. The firm says it looked into the kind of bacteria living on our phone screens and the results are pretty disgusting. To find out just how bad things are, SellCell collected two swabs each from the phones of 10 randomly selected participants aged between 22-62, with five males and five females.

After the swabs were sent to a bacterial analysis laboratory, they found that all the participants had multiple forms of harmful bacteria living on their phones.

Of the 20 swabs taken, the analysis showed that escherichia coli (E. coli) was found on every sample – with less than 10 colonies each. This bacteria lives in the intestines of humans and are most often found in human waste.

According to the Centre for Disease Control in the US, although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhoea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

The analysis measures the bacterial concentrations in CFU, also known as Colony Forming Units. Aside from E.Coli, other bacteria colonies that were found on each participant’s phone screen included:

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) – <20 CFU

Bacillus cereus (B. cereus) – <20 CFU

Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) – <10 CFU

Fecal streptococci – <10 CFU

Microbiologist working at petri dishes with bacteria, virus and blood samples in the medical research laboratory

The scientists tested the phone screen for bacteria (Image: Getty)

Fortunately, their analysis found that none of the bacteria were present in volumes exceeding 20 CFU. However, SellCell warned that even in such relatively small quantities, they had the potential to do some upset stomachs.

Most of the bacteria found on the phones had their origins traced back to either contaminated surfaces, or directly from human waste, as in the case of faecal streptococci.

A major reason for this disgusting cross-contamination is that many of us use our phones while on the toilet. When we flush without closing the lid, some faecal particles become airborne, sticking to surfaces like our phone screens.

Each of these bacteria could cause stomach upsets, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fevers, while in some cases like staphylococcus aureus, they even respiratory infections and skin infections, such as Cellulitis.

READ MORE: Android and iPhone alert will make you think twice

Woman holding a phone while using the toilet, Mock up phone white screen display in hand

Many of us use our phones on the toilet (Image: Getty)

The lab results also found that half of the participants’ phones had a much rare pathogen living on their screens, known as pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is found in the gut and the faecal waste of cockroaches.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, while P. aeruginosa rarely affects healthy individuals, it can cause a wide range of infections, particularly in those with a weakened immune system, for example, cancer patients, newborns and people with severe burns, diabetes mellitus or cystic fibrosis.

Their data showed that men seemed more likely to have this bacteria present, as three of the participants that presented P. aeruginosa colonies were male while just two were female.

SellCell also tested the swabs collected from the phone screens for salmonella, one of the major contributing bacteria to severe cases of food poisoning that often comes from cross-contamination when handling raw meats, particularly raw poultry.

Close up Scientist man hands look at Glass Petri Dish use Microscope research in science laboratory. Crop biochemistry scientist hands using fungi Gla

All samples contained clusters of bacteria (Image: Getty)

Fortunately, none of the samples collected showed any traces of this bacteria, suggesting that people were more careful when it comes to accidentally contaminating their phones after touching raw meat.

It seems that, when it comes to raw meats, people are a lot more careful about accidentally contaminating their mobile phones.

Commenting on the results of the research, Sarah McConomy, COO of SellCell.com said: “We were interested to find out just how common harmful bacteria is on our mobile phone screens, and what types of bacteria are the most common.

“The results were truly shocking, with many forms of bacteria originating from human faeces, which really highlights a need for people to thoroughly clean and sanitize their cell phones more often.

“What was perhaps the most disturbing to see was the presence of P. aeruginosa, a bacteria that comes directly from cockroaches and their poop. It’s really unsettling to think about cockroaches crawling over our phones and even using them as a bathroom when we’re not looking!”

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