Lost luggage and ever-shrinking leg room aren’t the only hazards of air travel. New research has found that deadly bacteria can hang around aeroplane cabins for up to a week.
These aren’t your everyday bacteria, either. The researchers specifically tested for two two nasty ones: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and a dangerous strain of E. coli.
“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,” study researcher Kiril Vaglenov of Auburn University said in a statement.
The diseases caused by this bacteria aren’t fun: MRSA can cause a painful, antibiotic-resistant skin infection that can sometimes spread throughout the body. And E. coli can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea, and vomiting.
They tested for these superbugs on six different aeroplane cabin surfaces: armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather.
Their findings? MRSA was still alive after a week on seat-back pocket material. E.coli lived for four days on an armrest.
The researchers presented their findings at at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston, Massachusetts.
(A note: The study didn’t test the cleaning products or protocols used by airlines, so these aren’t totally real world conditions.)
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