Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Potential Pathogens and Effective Disinfectants on Public Telephones at a Large Urban United State University

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Potential Pathogens and Effective Disinfectants on Public Telephones at a Large Urban United State University

Article excerpt

Introduction

Community-acquired bacterial infections can have serious consequences, often spreading through direct contact with environmental surfaces that harbor pathogens. Some studies have reported that telephones can carry potentially pathogenic bacteria (Gold-blatt et al., 2007; Tune & Olgun, 2006). Transfer efficiencies of greater than 40% have been reported for bacterial transferred from telephone receivers to hands or transferred from hands to mouths (Rusin, Maxwell, & Gerba, 2002). Clearly, handling of telephones may lead to infection of exposed susceptible individuals.

In a study performed in the winter months of 2007, we examined 10 public telephones in a large urban U.S. university and found the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus (Brooke, Annand, Hammer, Dembkowski, & Shulman, 2008). In a different study, current data from our lab during winter 2007 showed S. aureus was present on telephones in a large urban midwestern hospital.

The current study is the first to investigate the microbial flora of public telephone mouth pieces during the summer at a large urban U.S. university of approximately 25,000 individuals. It is located in a geographical area where a rising incidence of community-acquired staphylococcal infections is occurring. The first aim was to identify the potentially pathogenic bacteria on the telephone mouthpieces. After observing bacterial colonies on the telephones, the second aim of the study was to investigate the efficacy of selected disinfectants to reduce the numbers of test bacterial on the telephone mouthpieces. Disinfectants were chosen that contained quaternary ammonium compounds, alcohol, or sodium hypochlorite. These chemicals are found in common cleaning agents. S. aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterococus faecalis were used as test acterial. S. aureus was selected as a test organism because staphylococci have been reported to be among the most common organisms found on public telephones (Tune & Olgun, 2006; Yalowitz & Brook, 2003). S. Aureus causes a variety of skin infections (Iwatsuki, Yamasaki, Morizane, & Oono, 2006) and can become antibiotic-resistant in the form of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (Mlynarczyk, Mlynarczyk, & Jeljaszewicz, 1999). P. aeruginosa and E. faecalis were chosen because they are potential human pathogens that can grow in the respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract, respectively. Both P. aeruginosa and E. faecalis are opportunistic, multiantibiotic-resistant pathogenes that may be associated with skin and soft tissue infections (Armour, Shankowsky, Swanson, Lee, & Tredget, 2007; McBride, Fischetti, LeBlanc, Moellering, & Gilmore, 2007).

In this study, we show that bacteria are present and disinfectants are effective. We can conclude that existing practices of current institutional cleaning of these telephones is not sufficiently effective in reducing the bacteria on these devices.

Materials and Methods

Telephones were sampled for bacterial contamination at a large U.S. urban university in the Midwest on one day in June 2007, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and Twenty-five telephones were selected, covering high-and low-traffic sites. High-traffic sites were designated as sites with greater than 10 individuals coming in and out of the location per hour. Low-traffic sites were designated as sites with fewer than 10 individuals coming in and out of the location per hour.

To detect bacterial contamination on the telephones, a sterile polyester swab moistened with 0.9% saline was wiped over the entire surface area of the telephone mouthpiece, placed into 2 mL of 0.9% saline, transported to the laboratory, and processed immediately. Early swab in saline was vortexed for 30 seconds, and 500 [micro]L of the saline solution was spread onto trypticase soy agar (TSA) with 5% sheep blood (Hardy Diagnostics, CA). The plates were incubated at 37[degrees]C for 48 hours. …

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