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What It Looks Like When Students Press Their Phones Into Growth Plates

What It Looks Like When Students Press Their Phones Into Growth Plates

Look, you’ve read the headline — your phone looks gross when you visualize the bacteria on it and you’re gonna see it below.

Each year for a Practical and Biomedical Bacteriology class that the scientist/blogger at Exploring the Invisible runs, students are asked to press their mobile phones into a biological growth media — like a petri dish’s material — to encourage the bacteria on their phones to grow into colonies. Unsurprisingly, our phones are far from bacteria-free (which is true of pretty much everything):


The bacteria colonies that grow end up almost perfectly outlining the phones.


“From these results, it seems that 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, etc,” says Exploring the Invisible.


Perhaps many of these phones from 2014’s class were iPhones? I see a few colonies that look like they were living on a home button.


Just because there are bacteria on our phones, it doesn’t mean you are going to get sick. Our bodies are hosts to trillions of microorganisms as it is, and many of them help you out with everything from digestion to your body’s immune response.


But in this case, with medical students, seeing a phone in this way — as a vector or way to transport disease — is critically important. It makes abundantly clear how potentially dangerous microbes ride around with us everywhere on everything. With 75,000 patients dying from hospital acquired infections every year in the US, making future doctors cognizant of how infections may spread is more than just a gross-out teaching tool.

You can check out the full gallery of phone growths here.

IMAGES: 220/365 ~ August 8, 2010 by Mick Watson; Smart phones as vectors via Exploring the Invisible

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  1. Ric says:

    Kyle: that’s not what a “growth plate” is. You’re not allowed to make up words. Google is your friend.

  2. gridsleep says:

    Why are cell phones not made of that plastic that is claimed to be antibacterial that is said to be used in the likes of shopping cart parts and children’s toys? (note use use of ‘claimed’ and ‘said to be’; trust no one)

  3. RojerB says:

    What about old style public ‘phones? More likely to be toxic, I’d have thought>

  4. Kyuketzu says:

    This is amazing to see. But it also wants me to take alcohol around with me to whip my phone off.