Am J Infect Control. 2021 Oct 16:S0196-6553(21)00669-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2021.09.025. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Assuming that hygiene measures have improved significantly due to COVID-19, we aimed to investigate bacterial colonization on smartphones (SPs) owned by healthcare workers (HCWs) before and during the pandemic.
METHODS: Employing a before-and-after study design, randomly selected HCWs were included. Devices underwent sampling under real-life conditions, without prior manipulation. Swabs were collected in 2012 (pre-pandemic) and 2021 to determine microbial colonization. Isolates were identified by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and underwent microbiological susceptibility testing.
RESULTS: The final analysis included 295 HCWs (67% female, mean age 34 years) from 26 wards. Bacterial contamination was present on 293 of 295 SP screens (99.3%). The proportion of clinically relevant bacterial pathogens (e.g. Staphylococcus aureus, enterococci, Enterobacterales, non-fermenting bacteria) ranged from 21.2% in 2012 to 39.8% in 2021. Resistance profiles revealed a proportion of multidrug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA and VRE of less than 2%. The comparison of before-and-after sampling showed a significant increase in smartphone use during work from 2012 to 2021 with a simultaneous increase in cleaning intensity, probably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Bacterial contamination of SPs within the hospital is of concern and can serve as a source of cross-contamination. Hence, SPs must be carefully disinfected after handling in healthcare. Behavioral changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic could have a significant impact if implemented sustainably in everyday clinical practice.
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