Phone Biome
mp3 | wav

cells Talk about strange facts, more people own a mobile phone than have access to a working toilet. In the US, about two-thirds of the people you meet own a smartphone. That’s why it’s not surprising to hear that our phones reflect the microbiome of our skin, the microbes unique to each of us.

There are ten times as many microbial cells than human cells on and in our bodies and the majority have not been identified. However, this study is among the many attempting to do so. You may think your body is the same everywhere, but each area is unique and has a unique set of microbes that survive best there. And if an imbalance occurs throwing off the microbiome, you could get sick.

Some examples include acne, allergies, diabetes, cavities, gastric ulcers, obesity and even cancer. In the new study, scientists learned people touched their phones one hundred fifty times a day. So, they sampled people’s forefinger, thumb and the surface of their smartphones and found over seventy four hundred types of bacteria.

The most abundant bacteria on fingers and phones are the Streptococcus species followed by Staphylococci and in men, Corynebacteria. While men and women had different bacterial communities, women had a stronger link with the bacteria on their phones.

So can bacteria on cell phones be a danger? Not that we can see. There’s no evidence that smart phones are any more of a risk than other human possessions. But the study does show that in the future, we could track the spread of disease by examining cell phones. It would also tell us about a person’s exposure to certain microbes especially after looking at where they had travelled and spent time.

For more information…

NIH Human Microbiome Project

Mobile Phones Carry Owners' Bacterial 'Fingerprint'
Smartphones reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, say US scientists. More than 80% of the common bacteria that make up our personal bacterial "fingerprints" end up on their screens, a study suggests...

U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015
Today nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information and for staying connected to the world around them — either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone...

Mobile Phones Carry the Personal Microbiome of their Owners
Most people on the planet own mobile phones, and these devices are increasingly being utilized to gather data relevant to our personal health, behavior, and environment. We characterized microbial communities on smartphone touchscreens to determine whether there was significant overlap with the skin microbiome sampled directly from their owners.