Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cell phones reflect our personal microbiome

Date:
June 24, 2014
Source:
PeerJ
Summary:
Smartphones are everywhere, and they may be smarter than you think. Our cell phones actually reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors, according to new research. New research focused on the personal microbiome -- the collection of microorganisms on items regularly worn or carried by a person -- demonstrates the significant microbiological connection we share with our phones.

Scientists have found that our cell phones reflect the personal microbial world of their owners with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors.
Credit: James Meadow

Smartphones are everywhere, and they may be smarter than you think. Our cell phones actually reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors, according to new research. New research focused on the personal microbiome -- the collection of microorganisms on items regularly worn or carried by a person -- demonstrates the significant microbiological connection we share with our phones.

To test our biological connection with phones, University of Oregon researchers sequenced microbes from the dominant-hand index fingers and thumbs of 17 subjects and from the touchscreens of their smartphones, during a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation workshop in Princeton, New Jersey. The study found smartphones closely resembled the microbiome sampled from their owner's finger, with 82 percent of the most common bacteria on participants' fingers also found on their phones.

Interestingly, women were found to be more closely connected, microbiologically speaking, to their phones than were men. Although men and women were both statistically similar to their own phones, the relationship was stronger for women than for men. The findings appear in the June 24 issue of the online open-access, peer-reviewed journal PeerJ.

The most commonly found bacteria were from three genera that are ubiquitous on and in humans: Streptococcus, which is commonly found in the mouth, and Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium, both common skin residents.

The analyses, utilizing short-read 16S sequencing, focused on categorizing whole microbial communities rather than identifying pathogens. The findings emerged from sequences representing more than 7,000 different types of bacteria found in the 51 samples taken from fingers and phones.

"The sample size was small, but the findings, while intuitive, were revealing," said lead author James F. Meadow, a postdoctoral researcher in the Biology and the Built Environment Center at the University of Oregon.

"This project was a proof-of-concept to see if our favorite and most closely held possessions microbially resemble us. We are ultimately interested in the possibility of using personal effects as a non-invasive way to monitor our health and our contact with the surrounding environment," he said.

Future uses could include real-time sequencing technology to screen the smartphones of health-care workers and hospital visitors, rather than the people themselves, for possible exposure to pathogens that could be carried into or out of a medical facility. Also, phones are ubiquitous and come into direct contact with so much of a person's environment that they might also be valuable for analyzing exposure to "biological threats or unusual sources of environmental microbes that don't necessarily end up integrated into our human microbiome," researchers noted.

The findings also present opportunities for future scientific use, as phones could be used for easy and non-invasive sampling in large-scale microbial studies. The next step is to expand this research to develop and test predictions about the spread of microbiota among people and over time, particularly in health care facilities where hospital acquired infections impact about 1 in every 20 patients.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PeerJ. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James F. Meadow, Adam E. Altrichter, Jessica L. Green. Mobile phones carry the personal microbiome of their owners. PeerJ, 2014; 2: e447 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.447

Cite This Page:

PeerJ. "Cell phones reflect our personal microbiome." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624093314.htm>.
PeerJ. (2014, June 24). Cell phones reflect our personal microbiome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624093314.htm
PeerJ. "Cell phones reflect our personal microbiome." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624093314.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Inbox Is The Latest Gmail Competitor

Google's Inbox Is The Latest Gmail Competitor

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Google's new e-mail app is meant for greater personalization and allows users to better categorize their mail, but Gmail isn't going away just yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Free Math App Is A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

Free Math App Is A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — New photo-recognition software from MicroBlink, called PhotoMath, solves linear equations and simple math problems with step-by-step results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins