That iPhone next to your face is probably carrying all sorts of germs. The good news: They're mostly harmless.
Your smartphone might be packing more than just the latest app.
Bacteriology students at the University of Surey recently imprinted their mobile phones onto petri dishes, hoping to get a peek at the tiny organisms that live on the touchscreens of mobile devices.
After three days, the results looked downright creepy--photos of the culture plates revealed blooms of bacteria within what looks to be an iPhone frame--though the majority of phone bacteria was deemed harmless, according to the Daily Mail.
Dr. Simon Park, a senior lecturer at the University of Surey and the professor behind the tech-inspired bacteria cultures, explained that the exercise was meant to encourage students to think about the invisible organisms that saturate daily life.
"Each phone tells a story," Park told the Daily Mail. He cited a culture of the bacterium Bacillus mycoides as proof. It seems that the growth of this particular bacterium is unique--and typically associated with soil environments. From that information, Park explains, he can conclude that the phone and its user had recently been in contact with soil.
Doesn't exactly sound like a conclusion worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Park's not trying to impress. Mostly, he wants to alert students to the biological imprints left by their daily actions.
"The mobile phone doesn't just remember telephone numbers, but also harbours a history of our personal and physical contacts such as other people, soil, and other matter," he told the newspaper.
Oh, and it does facilitate the spread of a few unwanted guests. Staphylococcus aureus--which can cause Staph infections like food poisoning, impetigo, and septicaemia--popped up in one or two cultures.
"A furtive pick of the nose, and a quick text after, and you end up with [a] pathogen on your phone," he said.
FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle. @FrancescaFenzi