Hospital superbugs, like the notorius MRSA lurk on mobile handsets and make its way around easily, reveal scientists.
A photograph released by Richard Brady, a surgical research fellow at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, and his colleagues reveals colonies of bacteria grown from a working hospital doctor's mobile phone.
The researchers said that the pic reveals the ease with which deadly bacteria can be unwittingly carried around hospitals by members of staff.
Brady's study came after the rise in the use of mobile phones by hospital staff and the lack of guidance on how to clean them, despite strict handwashing policies.
Fears are growing that the mobile phones could be a route of transmitting infections because they are in regular contact with users' hands and close to their mouths, and because, despite regular handwashing, the bacteria on them could survive if they are not wiped clean.
"Mobile phones are being used in all aspects of healthcare delivery. They are the much preferred route because it makes communication more efficient. However, one aspect that has not been covered is bacterial contamination. They are particularly susceptible to this because they are in close contact with the mouth and hands, and travel to various clinical environments," the Scotsman quoted Brady, as saying.
For the study, the researchers took the mobile phone from a hospital doctor and placed it on agar, a gel used as a growth medium, to get an imprint.
The gel was then placed in an incubator overnight to allow any individual bacteria on the phone to grow into colonies. The coloured spots in the image are the different colonies of bacteria.
"The vast majority of bacteria here will be normally found on the skin and do not cause hospital-acquired infections; however, there may be a few that do," Brady said.