Different fomites which are in regular contact with humans can play an important role in the transmission of microorganisms. Mobile phones have become indispensable in all walks of life; nevertheless their potential role in transmission of infections is of great interest. A cross-sectional study was done (April to June, 2015) at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Faculty of Medicine (female campus), in order to detect the prevalence of bacterial contamination of mobile phones by students and staff, to investigate the most frequent habits associated with the use of mobile phones and effective cleaning of mobile phones with 70% alcohol for decontamination. A total of 168 swabs from 84 mobile phones derived from 80 volunteers were sampled at random. At the same time during sampling, a self-administered questionnaire was developed. All 84 mobile phones sampled were contaminated with bacteria, before decontamination. Coagulase-negative staphylococci were isolated frequently (32.3%), followed by Staphylococcus aureus (18.1%), viridans streptococci (15.7%), Bacillus spp. (13.4%) and Corynebacterium spp. (11.8%). Gram-negative bacilli and other Gram-positive cocci were also isolated but at lower levels. Mobile phones belonging to students had the highest rates of contamination (65.35%), followed by doctors (47%) and administrators (8.67%). Whilst, the lowest rate of bacterial contamination (5.5%) was observed among laboratory technicians, McNemar's analysis indicated that decontamination with 70% alcohol significantly decreased the rate of contamination from 100 to 47.6% (P<0.000). This study shows that all mobile phones examined were heavily contaminated with bacteria and the use of 70% alcohol for decontamination was effective in reducing bacterial colonization on these devices. Educating users on hygiene practices while using either mobile phones or other fomites in daily life aspects can help to reduce cross-transmission with microorganisms.
Key words: Medical campus, mobile phones, bacteria, decontaminations, hygiene, contamination, Saudi Arabia.
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