Mobile phones represent a pathway for microbial transmission: A scoping review

Matthew Olsen, Mariana Campos, Anna Lohning, Peter Jones, John Legget, Alexandra Bannach-Brown, Simon McKirdy, Rashed Alghafri, Lotti Tajouri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)



Mobile phones have become an integral part of modern society. As possible breeding grounds for microbial organisms, these constitute a potential global public health risk for microbial transmission.


Scoping review of literature examining microbial's presence on mobile phones in both health care (HC) and community settings.


A search (PubMed&GoogleScholar) was conducted from January 2005-December 2019 to identify English language studies. Studies were included if samples from mobile phones were tested for bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses; and if the sampling was carried out in any HC setting, and/or within the general community. Any other studies exploring mobile phones that did not identify specific microorganisms were excluded.


A total of 56 studies were included (from 24 countries). Most studies identified the presence of bacteria (54/56), while 16 studies reported the presence of fungi. One study focused solely on RNA viruses. Staphylococcus aureus, and Coagulase-Negative Staphylococci were the most numerous identified organisms present on mobile phones. These two species and Escherichia coli were present in over a third of studies both in HC and community samples. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus, Acinetobacter sp., and Bacillus sp. were present in over a third of the studies in HC settings.


While this scoping review of literature regarding microbial identification on mobile phones in HC and community settings did not directly address the issue of SARS-CoV-2 responsible for COVID-19, this work exposes the possible role of mobile phones as a 'Trojan horse' contributing to the transmission of microbial infections in epidemics and pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101704
JournalTravel Medicine and Infectious Disease
Early online date28 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


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