Washington: A new study suggests that disease-causing bacteria can linger on surfaces commonly found in airplane cabins for days, even up to a week.
"Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins," Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University who presented the data at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, said.
"This report describes the results of our first step in investigating this potential problem," Vaglenov said.
In order for disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from a cabin surface to a person, it must survive the environmental conditions in the airplane.
In the study Vaglenov and his colleagues tested the ability of two pathogens, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes.
They obtained six different types of material from a major airline carrier (armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather), inoculated them with the bacteria and exposed them to typical airplane conditions.
MRSA lasted longest (168 hours) on material from the seat-back pocket while E. coli O157:H7 survived longest (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," Vaglenov said.