This is why you should stop taking your phone with you to the bathroom

6:44 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 Atlanta health, diet and fitness news

Those few minutes you spend scrolling through your Facebook feed or Twitter timeline while in the bathroom could potentially lead to a pileup of germs on your phone (and eventually your face).

That’s according to recent research published in the journal “Germs.”

To determine how much bacterial contamination is on the phones of 16- to 18-year-olds, scientists from London’s Metropolitan University analyzed 27 cell phones belonging to high schoolers for a variety of bacteria using a contact plate method and microbial identification.

Scientists found bacterial contamination on all samples using the culture method and altogether, more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies and 20 different dominant microbial species were detected, authors wrote.

Most of the pathogens on those phones won’t make you sick, but some of them are concerning, Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, told Time.com.

“We’re not walking through a sterile environment, so if you touch a surface there could be something on that. There are lots of environmental contaminants,” she said.

And when you flush the toilet, germs spead everywhere.

Additionally, in an interview with The Sun, university microbiologist Paul Matewele said, “Toilet seats, handles, sinks and taps are covered in germs such as E. coli, which can cause urinary tract infections and intestinal illness, C. diff which can result in diarrhea, and acinetobacter which can cause a contagious respiratory infection.”

A previous study in South Korean teaching hospitals found touchscreen phones posed a significant risk factor for contamination by potentially pathogenic bacteria compared to button phones.

However, the new research found no significant differences between the phone types.

The authors hypothesized that the high level of contamination of phones with potentially pathogenic bacteria may spread a role in spreading infection, but based on the results, this does not appear to be the case. Researchers called for future research on this subject.

Some limitations of the study include its small sample size and the inability to analyze bacterial contamination using culture and molecular methods on the same side of the phone at the same time.

More about the London study and its methodology at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

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