Are you disinfecting your phone? If not, do it now. Mobile phones could be acting as 'Trojan horses' for coronavirus, warn researchers, urging billions of users worldwide to decontaminate their devices daily.
While all the studies predate the current pandemic, the authors said that the virus responsible for COVID-19 -- SARS-CoV-2 -- is probably present on mobile phones and other touch-screen devices of coronavirus sufferers.
The research, led by Associate Professor Lotti Tajouri of Bond University in Australia, reviewed 56 studies from 24 countries and found phones host a staggering cocktail of live germs.
"Our recommendation is that phones should be decontaminated daily and regularly with either 70 per cent isopropyl or by sanitising with (ultraviolet) devices like PhoneSoap," the study published in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Diseases, said.
The systematic review found golden staph and E. Coli microbes were among the most common bugs on phones.
According to the researchers, mobile devices were 'five-star hotels with premium heated spas, free buffet for microbes to thrive on'.
"They have temperature control, we keep them in our pockets, we are addicted to them, we talk into them and deposit droplets that can be full of viruses, bacteria -- you name it. "We eat with them, so we give nutrients to micro-organisms," Tajouri said.
"And nobody -- absolutely nobody - washes or decontaminates their phone," Tajouri added.
He said people travelled with their phones "and no border officers check them. It surely causes a biosecurity concern.
"That's why mobile phones are Trojan horses. We don't know that we are carrying the enemy," he said.
Dr Tajouri said phone super-users touched their devices up to 5000 times a day and even the average user handled them an average of three hours a day.
According to the researchers, community transmission could occur when an infected person touched their phone and then a pole on a bus which was grasped by an elderly person.
"The extraordinarily fast contagion that has scientists puzzled might reside within these mobile phones spreading COVID-19 everywhere at ultra-speed," Dr Tajouri said.
Let's take that hypothesis seriously. If we clean our phones daily and this makes a difference then we might with this little action curve down the COVID-19 epidemic and save lives, the researchers said.
In March, speaking to IANS, doctors in India advised that in addition to regularly washing hands, one should also disinfect their smartphone every 90 minutes with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
"In the time of fear of coronavirus, smartphones should also be disinfected with alcohol-based sanitizer rub. Pour few drops of sanitizer on a tiny clean cotton pad and rub it safely on your entire phone," Jyoti Mutta, Senior Consultant, Microbiology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute in New Delhi, had said.