Antimicrobial Susceptibility of Bacterial Pathogens Found on Healthcare Workers’ Cellphones

Stethoscope on cellphone
Stethoscope on cellphone
Researchers conducted a study to measure antimicrobial susceptibility of bacterial pathogens isolated from healthcare workers’ cellphones.

The cellphones of healthcare workers were found to often be contaminated with several types of bacterial pathogens, according to results of a study published in Infectious Diseases Now.

Researchers collected samples from cellphones received from hospital staff at a single center in Turkey. The researcher sought to identify the rates of antimicrobial susceptibility and the risk for disease transmission in pathogenic bacteria isolated from HCWs’ cellphones. Samples were cultured for 24 to 48 hours, and the researchers used traditional methods and the VITEK 2 device to identify the types of bacterial pathogens. Antimicrobial susceptibility was determined via Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion.

A total of 70 HCWs were included in the study, of whom 42 were women and 24 were men. In addition, the participants comprised 5 physicians, 26 nurses, 9 secretaries, and 26 laboratory technicians.

Overall, 26 species and 170 microorganisms were isolated from 66 cellphones, of which 94% contained 1 or more types of bacterial pathogens. The most frequently isolated bacteria from the 66 cell phones were coagulase-negative Staphylococci (37%), of which Staphylococcus epidermidis (25/63) was the most common. Other isolated bacteria included, Micrococcus luteus (14.7%), Tetracoccus (14.1%), Kocuria spp (n=24, 14.1%), Corynebacterium diphtheriae (4.1%), Leuconostoc mesenteroides (3.0%), S aureus (2.3%), Enterococcus spp (2.9%), Acinetobacter spp (4.1%), Klebsiella pneumoniae (1.2%), Actinomyces spp (0.6%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (0.6%), Morganella morganii (0.6%), and Alcaligenes faecalis (0.6%).

When asked about the frequency of cleaning, 48 (68.5%) participants indicated  never cleaning their cellphones, 16 (23%) indicated cleaning only when dirty, and 6 (8.5%) indicated daily cleaning. Of note, the researchers found that all coagulase-negative Staphylococci isolates were susceptible to gentamicin, moxifloxacin, quinupristin/dalfopristin, linezolid, vancomycin, tigecycline, and nitrofurantoin; and all Gram-negative isolates were resistant to ceftazidime. In addition, the rates of bacterial contamination were most increased among samples collected from the cellphones of nurses (48.8%), followed by laboratory technicians (27.6%), physicians (11.8%), and secretaries (11.8%).

According to researchers, these findings indicate that “most [HCWs] in clinical settings do not regularly clean their cellphones.” They concluded that “more research is needed with molecular-based methods to understand the presence and extent of viruses and other pathogens on cellphones.”


Bayraktar M, Kaya E, Ozturk A, İbahim BMS. Antimicrobial susceptibility of bacterial pathogens isolated from healthcare workers’ cellphones. Infect Dis Now. 2021;51(7):596-602. doi: 10.1016/j.idnow.2021.05.007