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New Study Shows Bacteria Can Linger in Airplane Cabins for Days

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New research from the American Society for Microbiology shows that disease-causing bacteria can linger on surfaces commonly found in airplane cabins for up to seven days. 

“Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a deseas from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins,” says Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University. “This report describes the results of our first step in investigating this potential problem.” 

The researchers tested the ability of two pathogens to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and E. coli. They obtained six different types of material from a major airline carrier including from an armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather seating.  

According to the results, MRSA lasted the longest at 168 hours, on material from the seat-back pocket, while E. coli survived the longest at 96 hours on the material from the armrest. 

“Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact,” says Vaglenov. 

The study was presented at the annual meeting the of ASM, and was conducted to lay the groundwork for infection control products. 

“Our future plans include the exploration of effective cleaning and disinfection strategies, as well as testing surfaces that have natural antimicrobial properties to determine whether these surfaces help reduce the persistence of disease-causing bacteria in the passenger aircraft cabin,” says Vaglenov. –

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