What bacteria are breeding on your phone?

What bacteria are breeding on your phone?
(Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Think about all the places you take your phone. It goes everywhere with you, and we mean everywhere. And you always wash your hands, right? But, what about your phone?

"Yes, I clean it off, I use a wipe to wipe it down," of course Katherine Wells, the Director of Public Health for the City of Lubbock, cleans her phone. But what about the rest of us. What about your kids?

According to our Facebook poll, the majority of our viewers said you never, or didn't know you should, clean your device. Every time you touch your phone, you're transferring bacteria. So, we decided to find out just what's living on your device.

We took Dr. Michael San Francisco from Texas Tech University, to a brave group of students and teachers at West Elementary school, who kindly offered up their devices to see what microbes could be growing.

"We used three different types of media: a general type of medium that allows most microbes to grow on it, another type of medium that would allow Gram-negative bacteria to grow on them, such as salmonella or E. coli, and then plates that would allow Gram-positive bacteria, for example staphylococcus or streptococcus to grow on them."

We asked the students, ages Pre-K through 5th grade, whose devices are dirtier: teachers or students? They all agreed, their devices are dirtier than their teachers.

After one week of waiting, we had our results. The good: "One thing we can tell is there's no staphylococcus on this plate (pink) because if it was growing it would've made a clear zone around it that would be yellow," according to Dr. San Francisco.

And the bad: "They look like lactose fermenting bacteria, which could be E. coli or salmonella, but there could be many others."

Almost all of the plates showed some sort of growth. But according to Dr. San Francisco, one age group stood out, "Looks like the 4th grade wins out in terms of the most microbes, I don't know if that's a good thing!"

And, just because your device showed up clean, doesn't mean you're in the clear. "Ninety-percent of the microbes in our environment cannot be cultured in this media, so it doesn't mean all of those empty spots had no microbes, it's just that they didn't grow."

But, are all these bacteria dangerous? "Most microbes in our environment are good. Some of these are good, some of these may not be, but the problem is when the population of microbes get high, then we need to be concerned," said Dr. San Francisco.

According to the Lubbock Health Department, there's no study showing a direct link between germs on phones and actual sickness, but you're probably still carrying a breeding ground for bacteria.

"Really it comes down to just in general, keeping things clean. So bacteria can build up on any hard surfaces, and the phone is something that gets exposed to lots of different things throughout the day," said Wells.

"We think we clean our phones by rubbing them on our pants or on our shirts, but that's not cleaning them, that's spreading it around, so the Facebook people who said they clean their phones, unless you used some real cleaning solution I don't think you did," said Dr. San Francisco.

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