Is Your Phone Harboring E. Coli?

Posted by on September 30, 2013

When you pick up an object, do you think about how many germs you are coming into contact with?  What if you come into contact with that object multiple times in a day?  Inevitably, an individual will pick up these germs because they are impossible to avoid.

medical assistant program

Students Kialyanna Lo and Iesha Kearney swab two cell phones

Medical assistant program students in the Microbiology and Urinalysis class at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center learn about specimen collection, processing, and cultures over the course of the quarter.  This group, however, chose to take their newly gained “germy” knowledge to a new level through an applied learning project during summer 2013 quarter.

Alicia Larson, medical assisting program chair and instructor of the class, explained to her students that a study completed in Canada has shown that one in six phones (cell phones and land lines) has E. coli growing on it.  This sparked students’ curiosity because they wanted to know if their campus population would fall into the same statistics.

The five women in the class spent time swabbing the phones of staff, faculty, and students all over campus.  They plated the samples on MAC plates, incubated the swabs for 48 hours to see if E. coli would grow, and then looked at the bacteria.  After the incubation period was over, the students found that no growth occurred.  Disappointed, the students chose to try one more time, so they took another set of samples.

According to Larson, “After two attempts to find E. coli, the students found none.  While this is obviously a good thing, the students were disappointed.  They were extremely grossed out at the thought of something growing on their own cell phones and the phones throughout the campus, but they wanted the opportunity to see what E. coli actually looked like.”

medical assistant program

Preparing the sample to be incubated

While the medical assistant students did not actually see the E. coli, they did bring awareness to the campus about the importance of hand washing and cleaning phones on a regular basis in order to reduce the amount of bacteria.  The project has made everyone more aware!

For more information on the medical assistant program at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center campus, please call 763-566-7777.



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