There’s been a trend of late to highlight how everyday objects are covered in germs. Usually, the stories have been fun in nature to point out the reality we all face…

germs-eveywhere(Sorry, Woody)

Yet, in the last few years, the tone has changed dramatically. Messages are no longer having fun with microbial ubiquity. Instead, they are attempting to instill a different emotion…

fearBe afraid…be very afraid!

The latest installment of this trend, which I like to call the “What Is Trying To Infect Me,” series, focuses on electronics. The study, a term I use lightly, was commissioned by an online information technology training group called CBT Nuggets. They wanted to find out just how many bacteria can be found on a variety of different objects.

As you might expect, the results are shocking! Electronics are covered in germs…

culkin(Sorry, Macaulay)

To give you an idea of just how many germs can be found, here’s one of the infographics from the study…

 

(That’s quite a bit of work!)

Granted, for some – or hopefully all – of you, this information is not surprising. After all, we know microbes are going to find their way onto surfaces. That’s just part of our everyday life.

But to really hit home the concern, the team went on to discuss what types of bacteria were found and what they could possibly do to us…

(Pretty scary, right?)

For the most part, this part of the study isn’t too far off the usual method. You swab, count the number of bacteria, and identify the types under a microscope. So far so good. The next step would then be to identify the different species and determine their potential for causing infection.

That, however, didn’t happen…

picard2(Sorry, Jean-Luc)

Instead, the team simply assumed the presence of a bacterial type implied a health threat. In essence, a Gram Positive Coccus on a surface warned of an impending skin infection or pneumonia.

As any health-related microbiologist will tell you…

wrong(You tell ’em, kitty!)

When it comes to microbes, only about 0.1% of the species we know are capable of causing infection. Of those, you may only come into contact with a few dozen. The rest are harmless and pose absolutely no threat to your health.

All this being said, I can understand the reason a group like CBT Nuggets would undertake this effort. They want people to clean their electronic equipment and more importantly, their hands. That is indeed a valiant effort. But to conduct a study like this is simply not effective and may end up backfiring in a most undesirable way…

chan(Sorry, Jackie)

If you are going to conduct a study like this, be sure to have some Latin thrown in, like Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Bacillus, and yes, even Escherichia. Once you’ve done that, then you can provide perspective on the risks to health. For me, this study misses the mark for that lack of clarity.

But that’s not the only reason it made me more upset than Jean-Luc and Jackie. If the team wanted to convey a true risk associated with electronics, they would have studied not bacteria but…

sneeze(Respiratory viruses)

These infectious agents are easily shed onto phones, pads, and keyboards by coughing and sneezing. They can survive for hours allowing them to be picked up by fingers and eventually transferred to the nose or mouth by touching. They are the perfect reason to clean those devices and your hands regularly.

Regardless of what I have to say, I’m sure people will take an interest with this study. I just hope they won’t take the threat seriously. If you want to read the entire CBT Nuggets story, you can find it here: Bytes and Bacteria: Exposing the Germs on your Technology | CBT Nuggets

 

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