Study confirms bacterial contamination of mobile phones and tablets in veterinary hospitals

1 April 2021

A new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP), found that 68% of portable electronic devices (PEDs) used by veterinary staff were contaminated with Staphylococci, including both vancomycin and oxacillin resistant strains.

In the study titled “Staphylococcal bacterial contamination of portable electronic devices in a large veterinary hospital”, samples were taken from the screen and any button of PEDs (such as mobile phones and tablets) of staff working directly with feline and canine patients. Hospital staff were asked to complete a questionnaire to ascertain the frequency of PED use and the frequency and method of PED cleaning.

The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of Staphylococcal contamination of PEDs in a veterinary hospital, and to identify the source and determine the pathogenesis of any cultured strains. Positive cultures were tested for resistance to oxacillin and vancomycin using a Kirby-Bauer disc diffusion test and then by using a broth microdilution test to EUCAST guidelines and breakpoints. PCR was used to specifically genotype the isolated staphylococci.

Georgia Vinall, corresponding author for the paper, said: “Useable swab samples were taken from 47 devices; Staphylococcus spp. were cultured from 68% of PEDs with a median of 10 colonies grown per device. Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus spp. were found on 36% of devices, whilst oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus spp. were cultured from 2% of devices. DNA sequencing identified three Staphylococcus species; S. capitis, S. epidermidis and S. hominis which are most likely associated with humans as either sources or transmission vectors.

“The results of the survey indicate that 96% of staff had a PED which they used in the hospital environment, of which 85% use their device every day. Despite the high usage of PEDS in the hospital environment, only 6% of staff cleaned their device daily, with 33% of staff cleaning their PED less than weekly. Furthermore, only 54% of staff cleaned their device with a disinfectant.”

Nicola Di Girolamo, Editor of JSAP concluded: “This study demonstrates that PEDs may become contaminated with potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Although this specific study did not focus on transmission of these microorganisms, and therefore it is unclear what are the clinical implications of this finding, it seems prudent to develop appropriate protocols for cleaning of PEDs in veterinary hospitals.”

The full article can be found in the April issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice and can be read online here: It is open access and can be freely accessed by anyone.

The Journal of Small Animal Practice is published monthly and access to articles is free for BSAVA members. For information on how to become a BSAVA member visit

1G. Vinall, T. Cogan, A. Jeffery and M. Tivers (2021) Staphylococcal bacterial contamination of portable electronic devices in a large veterinary hospital. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 62 (4). Available at: