Review of mobile communication devices as potential reservoirs of nosocomial pathogens


      Innovation in mobile communication technology has provided novel approaches to the delivery of healthcare and improvements in the speed and quality of routine medical communication. Bacterial contamination of mobile communication devices (MCDs) could be an important issue affecting the implementation of effective infection control measures and might have an impact on efforts to reduce cross-contamination. This review examines recent studies reporting bacterial contamination of MCDs, most demonstrating that 9–25% of MCDs are contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. We examine previously investigated risk factors for MCD contamination in addition to work on surface decontamination of the device. Recommendations to reduce contamination risks include staff education, strict hand hygiene measures, guidelines on device cleaning and consideration of the restrictions regarding use of mobile phone technology in certain high risk areas, for example, operating theatres, intensive care units and burns units. Further work is required to evaluate the benefit of such interventions on MCD contamination and to determine whether a link exists between contamination and subsequent patient infection.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Hospital Infection
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Klein A.A.
        • Djaiani G.N.
        Mobile phones in the hospital – past, present and future.
        Anaesthesia. 2003; 58: 353-357
        • Lawrentschuk N.
        • Bolton D.
        Mobile phone interference with medical equipment and its clinical relevance: a systematic review.
        Med J Aust. 2004; 18: 145-149
        • Morrissey J.J.
        Mobile phones in the hospital: improved mobile communication and mitigation of EMI concerns can lead to an overall benefit to healthcare.
        Health Phys. 2004; 87: 82-88
        • Hahn I.
        • Schnadower D.
        • Dakin R.
        • Nelson L.
        Cellular phone interference as a cause of acute epinephrine poisoning.
        Ann Emerg Med. 2005; 46: 298-299
        • Ramesh J.
        • Carter A.
        • Campbell M.
        • et al.
        Use of mobile phones by medical staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Barbados: evidence for both benefit and harm.
        J Hosp Infect. 2008; 70: 160-165
        • Soto R.G.
        • Chu L.F.
        • Goldman J.M.
        • et al.
        Communication in critical care environments: mobile telephones improve patient care.
        Anesth Analg. 2006; 102: 535-541
        • Brady R.R.
        • Wasson A.
        • Stirling I.
        • McAllister C.
        • Damani N.N.
        Is your phone bugged? The incidence of bacteria known to cause nosocomial infection on healthcare workers' mobile phones.
        J Hosp Infect. 2006; 62: 123-125
        • Downer S.R.
        • Meara J.G.
        • Costa D.A.
        • Annette C.
        Use of SMS text messaging to improve outpatient attendance.
        Med J Aust. 2005; 183: 366-368
        • Vilella A.
        • Bayas J.M.
        • Diaz M.T.
        • et al.
        The role of mobile phones in improving vaccination rates in travellers.
        Prev Med. 2004; 38: 503-509
        • Leong K.C.
        • Chen W.S.
        • Leong K.W.
        • et al.
        The use of text messaging to improve attendance in primary care: a randomized controlled trial.
        Fam Pract. 2006; 23: 699-705
        • Ebner C.
        • Wurm E.M.
        • Binder B.
        • et al.
        Mobile teledermatology: a feasibility study of 58 subjects using mobile phones.
        J Telemed Telecare. 2008; 14: 2-7
        • Archbold H.A.
        • Guha A.R.
        • Shyamsundar S.
        • McBride S.J.
        • Charlwood P.
        • Wray R.
        The use of multi-media messaging in the referral of musculoskeletal limb injuries to a tertiary trauma unit using: a 1-month evaluation.
        Injury. 2005; 36: 560-566
        • Eze N.
        • Lo S.
        • Bray D.
        • Toma A.G.
        The use of camera mobile phone to assess emergency ENT radiological investigations.
        Clin Otolaryngol. 2005; 30: 230-233
        • Menon-Johansson A.S.
        • McNaught F.
        • Mandalia S.
        • Sullivan A.K.
        Texting decreases the time to treatment for genital Chlamydia trachomatis infection.
        Sex Transm Infect. 2006; 82: 49-51
        • Ferrer-Roca O.
        • Cardenas A.
        • Diaz-Cardama A.
        • et al.
        Mobile phone text messaging in the management of diabetes.
        J Telemed Telecare. 2004; 10: 282-285
        • Neville R.
        • Greene A.
        • McLeod J.
        • et al.
        Mobile phone text messaging can help young people manage asthma.
        Br Med J. 2002; 325: 600
        • Chin K.R.
        • Adams Jr., S.B.
        • Khoury L.
        • Zurakowski D.
        Patient behavior if given their surgeon's cellular telephone number.
        Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2005; 439: 260-268
        • Anonymous
        Patient power review group: use of mobile phones in hospitals and other NHS premises.
        Department of Health, London2006
        • Bhattacharya K.
        Mobile phones and the surgeon – is there a controversy?.
        Ind J Surg. 2005; 67: 53-54
        • Mole D.J.
        • Fox C.
        • Napolitano G.
        Electronic patient data confidentiality practices among surgical trainees: questionnaire study.
        Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2006; 88: 550-553
        • Anonymous
        MDA device bulletin DB9702.
        Department of Health, London1997
        • Dancer S.J.
        Importance of the environment in meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus acquisition: the case for hospital cleaning.
        Lancet Infect Dis. 2008; 8: 101-113
        • Brady R.R.
        • Kalima P.
        • Damani N.N.
        • Wilson R.G.
        • Dunlop M.G.
        Bacterial contamination of hospital bed-control handsets in a surgical setting: a potential marker of contamination of the healthcare environment.
        Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2007; 89: 656-660
        • Borer A.
        • Gilad J.
        • Smolyakov R.
        • et al.
        Cell phones and Acinetobacter transmission.
        Emerg Infect Dis. 2005; 11: 1160-1161
        • Brady R.R.
        • Fraser S.F.
        • Dunlop M.G.
        • Paterson-Brown S.
        • Gibb A.P.
        Bacterial contamination of mobile communication devices in the operative environment.
        J Hosp Infect. 2007; 66: 397-398
        • Goldblatt J.G.
        • Krief I.
        • Klonsky T.
        • et al.
        Use of cellular telephones and transmission of pathogens by medical staff in New York and Israel.
        Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2007; 28: 500-503
        • Braddy C.M.
        • Blair J.E.
        Colonization of personal digital assistants used in a health care setting.
        Am J Infect Control. 2005; 33: 230-232
        • Jeske H.C.
        • Tiefenthaler W.
        • Hohlrieder M.
        • Hinterberger G.
        • Benzer A.
        Bacterial contamination of anaesthetists' hands by personal mobile phone and fixed phone use in the operating theatre.
        Anaesthesia. 2007; 62: 904-906
        • Karabay O.
        • Kocoglu E.
        • Tahtaci M.
        The role of mobile phones in the spread of bacteria associated with nosocomial infections.
        J Infect Developing Countries. 2007; 1: 72-73
        • Namias N.
        • Widrich J.
        • Martinez O.V.
        • Cohn S.M.
        Pathogenic bacteria on personal pagers.
        Am J Infect Control. 2000; 28: 387-388
        • Jayalakshmi J.
        • Appalaraju B.
        • Usha S.
        Cellphones as reservoirs of nosocomial pathogens.
        J Assoc Physicians India. 2008; 56: 388-389
        • Hassoun A.
        • Vellozzi E.M.
        • Smith M.A.
        Colonization of personal digital assistants carried by healthcare professionals.
        Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2004; 25: 1000-1001
        • Beer D.
        • Vandermeer B.
        • Brosnikoff C.
        • Shokoples S.
        • Rennie R.
        • Forgie S.
        Bacterial contamination of health care workers' pagers and the efficacy of various disinfecting agents.
        Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2006; 25: 1074-1075
        • Singh D.
        • Kaur H.
        • Gardner W.G.
        • Treen L.B.
        Bacterial contamination of hospital pagers.
        Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2002; 23: 274-276
        • Tambekar D.H.
        • Gulhane P.B.
        • Dahikar S.G.
        • Dudhane M.N.
        Nosocomial hazards of doctor's mobile phones in hospitals.
        J Med Sci. 2008; 8: 73-76
        • Khivsara A.
        • Sushma T.V.
        • Dahashree B.
        Typing of Staphylococcus aureus from mobile phones and clinical samples.
        Curr Sci. 2006; 90: 910-912
        • Naikoba S.
        • Hayward A.
        The effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing handwashing in healthcare workers – a systematic review.
        J Hosp Infect. 2001; 47: 173-180
        • Brady R.R.
        • Dunlop M.G.
        • Gibb A.P.
        Infection controls: the hospital bed-control handset.
        J Hosp Infect. 2008; 70: 88
        • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
        • Managing Medical Devices: Guidance for healthcare and social services organizations
        Device bulletin DB2006(05).
        Department of Health, London2006 (pp. 1–66)