Which Gender’s Cell Phone Has More Bacteria?

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Since the invention of mobile cell phones, people have been carrying them wherever they go and using them for long periods of time throughout the day. Today’s cell phones can do everything from making a phone call across the world, to searching the internet and taking high definition photographs of anything in sight. Cell phones also have applications that people do want to close out of, like video games and social media. On average, an American spends four hours on their mobile phone every day (“Demographics”). This is a great deal of time to be using a mobile device, and with all of this usage the phone gets very dirty very quickly. Even after a short period of time, bacterial cultures can start to form on mobile phones (Blankinship 167).

Bacteria are unicellular microorganisms with a simple structure. Unlike many other organisms, bacteria are prokaryotes, meaning they have no nucleus or membrane based structures. Bacteria are found in every habitat and in almost every living thing on earth. In addition, they reproduce asexually by binary fission. Binary fission causes a singular bacterium to split into two bacteria and the process continues so long as the conditions are favorable. This causes the bacteria to multiply very rapidly and efficiently (“About”). The bacteria go through a period of adaptation, and if the environmental conditions are suitable, they start to grow in cultures. If the conditions are not viable, such as the wrong nutrients, insufficient moisture, or unfavorable temperature, the bacteria will begin to die and cease multiplying (Bruslind 9).

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Bacteria are found all over the earth and there are thousands of different kinds of bacteria. Advertising suggests that bacteria are bad and numerous products are sold to kill bacteria in an effort to reduce the spread of illness and disease. While antibacterial products can be beneficial in decreasing the spread of harmful bacteria, most bacteria are actually harmless or beneficial to humans (Levy 36). Some bacteria, like the Chlamydia genus, are spherically shaped and can cause many different diseases in humans, such as respiratory and eye infections. This bacterial parasite is classified as gram negative, which means that they have an inner cell wall which appears to be light purple when viewed under a microscope. Most gram negative bacteria cause diseases or harm the human body is some way. Other bacteria, such as the Lactobacillus genus, are rod-shaped beneficial bacteria that produce lactic acids and are widely distributed in dairy products and other animal feeds. This bacteria is classified as gram positive, and its cell wall appears purple under a microscope. Gram positive bacteria can be both helpful and harmful to the human body. Lactobacillus is used in the production of yogurt and fermented vegetables, but Staphylococcus, also a gram positive bacteria can cause food poisoning and numerous types of infections in humans and animals ( Rogers 78-104). Gram positive and gram negative are just two categories of bacteria in a world filled with microorganisms, all performing various functions.

Whether something is living or nonliving, bacteria is able to grow on it. Even in habitats that seem inhospitable, like Antarctica, bacteria can survive and reproduce. Bacteria can grow and spread on to everyday objects (Levy 34-37). When people carry something around with them all day, the item could pick up a large quantity of bacteria, and that bacteria will end up reproducing and growing. There have been studies which confirm the presence of bacteria on commonly used surfaces. In one study, Annand examined the amount of bacteria found on items such as telephones, keyboards, and photocopiers, items which could be found in a high school. This study showed that the bacterial counts on these surfaces increased significantly throughout the day. It also suggested that the high counts of bacteria on phones may occur because exhaled vapor from the user’s mouth supports the growth of bacteria. Today, many individuals carry their mobile phones with them wherever they go. They touch and use their phones frequently throughout the day, and if the conditions are favorable, this could lead to bacterial colonies growing on the person’s phone. Depending on the type of bacteria that is found on the phone, a person may become ill or spread an illness. Some surfaces, if not cleaned properly, potentially contain pathogenic bacteria, which can survive for days or even weeks (Annand, et al 17-23). This suggests that people should wash their hands and mobile phones often to ensure that the bacteria does not affect them (Morubagal et al. 143–151).

If a person’s profession involves being around many people each day, harmful bacteria could potentially spread onto the mobile phone very quickly. For example, a study by Chang showed that the use of cellphones among medical staff in the hospital setting is raising concerns that they could be a source in spreading infections (Chang et al.). While occupation may correlate with the amount of bacteria on a person’s phone, there are a few other factors that affect the amount of contamination. Surprisingly, gender is a prominent factor in bacteria levels on a mobile phone. Females are said to be cleaner than males, and they wash their hands on a more consistent basis. Studies have shown that in the bathroom, a dirty place filled with bacteria, males wash their hands much less than females. When bacteria stays on someone’s hands after bathroom usage, harmful bacteria will begin to reproduce. Hand washing is effective at minimizing bacteria, and should be done every time someone leaves the restroom (Berry).

Overall, cell phones are very common in modern society. Almost every teenager has one, and they are carried around wherever they go. As a result,, bacteria spreads to the phone and then to its user very quickly. People should be sure to wash their hands and phones so bacteria does not travel. Bacteria is not always harmful, but precautions should always be taken so that bacteria is not spread has less chance of causing illness.

Works Cited

  1. 'About Microbiology – Bacteria.' Microbiology Online, https://microbiologyonline.org/about-microbiology/introducing-microbes/bacteria.
  2. Annand, John W., et al. 'Potential Pathogens and Effective Disinfectants on Public Telephones at a Large Urban United States University.' Journal of Environmental Health, vol. 71, no. 6, 2009, pp. 24–29. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26327847.
  3. Berry, Thomas D., et al. 'Examining hand-washing rates and durations in public restrooms: a study of gender difference via personal, environmental, and behavioral determinants.' Environment and Behavior, vol. 47, no. 8, 23 Mar. 2014, pp. 923-44. SAGE Journals Online, journal.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/001391651427590. Accessed 6 Oct. 2019.
  4. Blankinship, Lisa Ann, et al. 'Survey of Antibiotic Resistance in Cell Phone and Computer Keyboard Isolated Bacteria.' Bios, vol. 84, no. 3, 2013, pp. 165–172. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23595290.
  5. Bruslind, Linda. 'Microbial Growth.' Oregon State Microbiology, Oregon State, library.open.oregonstate.edu/microbiology/chapter/microbial-growth/.
  6. Chih-Hsiang Chang, Szu-Yuan Chen, and Pang-Hsin Hsieh Yuhan Chang. 'Nasal Colonization and Bacterial Contamination of Mobile Phones Carried by Medical Staff in the Operating Room.' PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 31 May 2017, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0175811.
  7. 'Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States.' Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 12 June 2019, www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/.
  8. Levy, Janey. The World of Microbes: Bacteria, Viruses, and Other Microorganisms. New York, Rosen Publ., 2011.
  9. Morubagal, Raghavendra Rao, et al. 'Study of Bacterial Flora Associated with Mobile Phones of Healthcare Workers and Non-Healthcare Workers.' Iranian Journal of Microbiology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, June 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5719508/.
  10. Rogers, Kara. Bacteria and Viruses. Britannica Educational Publ., 2011.
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