Where Germs Like to Hide on Planes

Snakes on planes may be the stuff of horror movies, but the real life horror is germs on planes.

Your seat-back pocket is probably coated in more germs than the toilet handle, and many of these bacteria linger on surfaces within airplanes for longer than a week, reports LiveScience.com.

And these are nasty germs, too.

Researchers from Auburn University in Alabama tested how long two particularly virulent bacteria would last on six surfaces inside an aircraft cabin: a plastic tray table, a metal toilet handle, an armrest, a window shade, seat pocket cloth and seat leather.

The antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus):

  • Cloth seatback pockets: one week

The bacterium E. coli O157:H7, a common culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness:

  • Armrest: four days
  • Tray tables: three days
  • Toilets: two days

"We do not know how likely it is for a passenger to get infected, but the odds are higher when groups of people are put into a crowded room or cabin," said James M. Barbaree, an associate director for research at Auburn, told LiveScience.com.

The takeaway: "Good hygiene practices lower the risk" of getting sick, Barbaree told LiveScience.com. This includes washing your hands frequently and even wiping down your seatback pocket, tray table and window shade with an antiseptic wipe packed in your carry-on luggage. And don't eat the peanuts directly off the tray table.

The study, which was presented at a general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, was funded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Office of Aerospace Medicine.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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