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'Keyboards dirtier than toilet seats'

Office computer keyboards could be filthier than toilet seats and cause serious diseases. Sanchita Sharma tells more.

health and fitness Updated: May 02, 2008 16:18 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Office computer keyboards could be filthier than toilet seats and cause serious diseases, according to a British microbiologist.

Tests were conducted on 33 office keyboards and compared with swabs from a toilet seat and a door handle in a public toilet. It was found that the keyboards containeddangerous levels of killer bacteria such as E coli and S aureus. E coli causes diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever, while S aureus causes skin infections such as pimples, boils and abscesses.

Two keyboards had dangerous levels of coliform bacteria that are found in faeces and cause gastroenteritis. One keyboard was five times dirtier than the toilet seat and home to 150 times the acceptable limit of bacteria. "(It) was increasing the risk of its user becoming ill," said the micro- biologist, James Francis.

The results were published in the UK's Which? Computing magazine. The biggest source for contamination was people eating at their desks and dropping crumbs that lodge between keys and feed bacteria.

"The common causes of contamination are the user's poor personal hygiene, particularly failing to wash hands properly after eating, sneezing or coughing or using the toilet," says Dr SK Sarin of GB Pant Hospital.

Bacteria are also found on shared surfaces such as desks. "The best protection is washing hands with soap and water, especially before eating, and avoid touching the face and mouth," says Dr Shiv Lal, director, National Institute of Communicable Diseases.