University of Oregon researchers sequenced microbes from the dominant-hand index fingers and thumbs of 17 subjects and from the touchscreens of their smartphones, during a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation workshop in Princeton, New Jersey. The study found smartphones closely resembled the microbiome sampled from their owner's finger, with 82 % of the most common bacteria on participants' fingers also found on their phones.
Interestingly, women were found to be more closely connected, microbiologically speaking, to their phones than were men. Although men and women were both statistically similar to their own phones, the relationship was stronger for women than for men.
The analyses, utilizing short-read 16S sequencing, focused on categorizing whole microbial communities rather than identifying pathogens. The findings emerged from sequences representing more than 7,000 different types of bacteria found in the 51 samples taken from fingers and phones.
Lead author James F said that the sample size of the research was small, but the findings were revealing.