Deadly germs can live in aircraft cabins for a week

(CBS) - Some of the most harmful and resilient bacteria on airplanes aren't necessarily the ones from the sneezing old lady sitting next to you. They're the germs that live on the upholstery of the chair, the tray table where the flight attendant places your lunch and on the metal buttons you press to move your seat or flush the toilet, according to new research just presented at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting.

The researchers found bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli can live for up to a week on airplanes that aren't sufficiently cleaned. The study was partially funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

For the study, a team of microbiologists and engineers at Auburn University in Alabama simulated travel in the friendly skies. They obtained various parts of an aircraft cabin -- seats, upholstery and leather, metal items such as the toilet flusher button, armrests, window shades -- in order to test the life of various types of bacteria and see how long it could survive on those surfaces.

All together researchers tested six different types of bacteria. They found MRSA could last for up to 168 hours on the back pocket of an airplane chair, while E. coli survived on average for about 96 hours on the material from the armrest. Experts say the dry air found in airplanes means they're an especially hospitable place for bacteria to live.

Several frequent flyers told CBS News it makes sense.

"I'm not surprised. I try not to focus on that stuff otherwise I wouldn't go anywhere," passenger Anneke Hiatt said.

Health experts recommend passengers always carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Many travelers such as David Urban already take precautions to remain as germ-free as possible.

"I just make sure to wash my hands, I don't touch my face, my mouth, my nose," Urban told CBS News.

In the future, the researchers plan to study the effectiveness of various methods for cleaning and disinfecting airplane surfaces and test out other materials that may have antimicrobial properties, which could help limit the presence of bacteria in aircraft cabins.


Join the Conversation!

To comment, the following rules must be followed:

  • No Obscenity, Profanity, Vulgarity, Racism or Violent Descriptions
  • No Negative Community Comparisons
  • No Fighting, Name-calling, or Personal Attacks
  • Multiple Accounts are Not Allowed
  • Stay on Story Topic

Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content, but the station is under no legal obligation to do so.
If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator.
Flagging does not guarantee removal.

Multiple violations may result in account suspension.
Decisions to suspend or unsuspend accounts are made by Station Moderators.
Links require admin approval before posting.
Questions may be sent to webmaster@wvlt-tv.com. Please provide detailed information.

powered by Disqus

WVLT VOLUNTEER TV

6450 Papermill Drive Knoxville, TN 37919 Phone - (865) 450-8888; Fax - (865) 450-8869
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2014 WVLT-TV Inc. - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 260041091 - local8now.com/a?a=260041091