BACKGROUND: Mobile phones, used in billions throughout the world, are high-touch devices subject to a dynamic contamination of microorganisms and rarely considered as an important fomite to sanitise systematically. The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably the most impactful pandemic of the 21st century with millions of deaths and disruption of all facets of modern life globally.
AIM: To perform a systematic review of the literature exploring SARS-CoV-2 presence as a contaminant on mobile phones.
METHODS: A systematic search (PubMed and Google Scholar) of literature was undertaken from December 2019 to March 2023 identifying English language studies. Studies included in this review specifically identified or tested for the contamination of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or genome on mobile phones while studies testing for SARS-COV-2 in environments and/or other fomites samples than but not mobile phones were excluded.
RESULTS: A total of 15 studies with reports of SARS-CoV-2 contamination on mobile phones between 2020 and 2023 were included. Amongst all studies, which encompassed ten countries, 511 mobile phones were evaluated for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 contamination and 45% (231/511) were positive for SARS-CoV-2. All studies were conducted in the hospital setting and two studies performed additional testing in residential isolation rooms and a patient's house. Four studies (3 in 2020 and one in 2021) reported 0% contamination while two other studies (in 2020 and 2022) reported 100% of mobile phone contamination with SARS-COV-2. All other studies report mobile phones positive for the virus within a range of 4-77%.
CONCLUSION: A total of 45% of mobile phones are contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 virus. These devices might be an important fomite vector for viral dissemination worldwide. Competent health authorities are advised/recommended to start a global implementation of mobile phone decontamination by introducing regulations and protocols in public health and health care settings such as the 6th moment of hand washing.