Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our lives. Though they offer plenty of advantages, they are prolific breeding grounds for infectious pathogens in communities and hospitals. The present study seeks to identify the counts and types of bacteria contaminating touch screen mobile phones (TSMP) used by students of the Islamic University-Gaza (IUG) and healthcare workers (HCWs) at Al-Shifa Hospital. It also tries to investigate the antimicrobial resistance profiles. A cross-sectional study was conducted from October 2013 to April 2014. Two hundred and fifty swab samples were collected: 100 IUG female students, 100 IUG male students and 50 from HCWs. Along with the questionnaire, swabs moistened with sterile normal saline were used to swab an area of 3cm2 over TSMP. Samples were cultured and processed by standard Microbiological procedures. The overall percentage of positive cultures was 71.6%. Staphylococcus aureus was the most predominant isolate (with 27%). HCWs results revealed higher positive cultures and counts of bacteria than those for IUG samples. The most common isolate in HCWs was S. aureus, but Coagulase Negative Staphylococcus (CNS) was particularly found in IUG students. Male phones exhibited higher positive culture and bacterial count than those for females at the target university. Meanwhile, S. aureus was the most common isolate in male phones compared to CNS in female phones. The data from the questionnaire showed that wipes were the most efficient method used by respondents to clean TSMP. The use of surface guards with rough type reduced contamination and bacterial counts. Antimicrobial susceptibility results of S. aureus in HCWs showed that 28.3% were methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 73.6% were penicillin-resistant. Tested mobile phones were contaminated with potential pathogen, including MRSA. Therefore, an awareness campaign should be launched to educate the public and HCWs on the health hazards associated with improper use of mobile phones.
Mobile phones, contamination, Staphylococcus aureus, healthcare workers, Gaza Strip.