SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – Your smartphone holds more than apps and contact lists. They are also home to thousands of types of bacteria.
And scientists are now using those bacteria to open a window into the microbes that live in and on your body, reports Live Science.
Researchers took sample from the fingers and thumbs of 17 people and samples from their smartphone touchscreens. They found more than 7,000 different types of bacteria in the samples.
The most common bacteria types were Streptococcus, which is commonly found in people’s mouths, and Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium, which are typically found on human skin.
As might be expected, the microbes on the mobile devices closely matched those on the participants fingers — among the most common bacteria in the samples, 82 percent of bacteria types on participant’s fingers were also found on their phones, the researchers said.
Each person had more bacteria in common with his or her own phone than with anyone else’s phone, said study researcher James Meadow, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oregon.
“This study confirms that we share more than an emotional connection with our phones, they carry our personal microbiome,” the researchers wrote in the June 24 issue of the journal PeerJ.
The smartphones in the study contained more than just bacteria found on fingers, they also carry bacteria that we pick up just from being outside, touching other surfaces or other people.
In the future, it may be possible to use smartphones as a way to monitor the bacteria people are exposed to in the environments, said Meadow. Phones could be screened before or after a person enters a hospital to see if they are bringing dangerous pathogens in or out.
Taking samples from actual people requires consent, and some people may find it uncomfortable, but swabbing smartphones could be a less-invasive way to get samples. “This may be a way to make research into the microbiome easier in the future,” Meadow said.
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