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Passenger Planes Carry Cargoes Of E.Coli

A recently released study by a research team at Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences reveals that extreme strains of E.Coli and MRSA can last for days on a plane. They can camp there on armrests, emergency manuals, seats and window-shades for up to one week.

Scientists have long thought of airplanes as potential hotbeds of infection and illness. Any science student could tell you that viruses generally thrive in low-humidity. Furthermore, high altitudes are known to cause fatigue in humans as well as weaken immune systems.


E.Coli / Image: InHabitat

The investigative team conducted tests of airline armrests, seats and seat pockets, toilet flush handles, tray tables and window shades. They inoculated them with the bacteria and then simulated the humidity and temperature of a typical airline cabin.

The results revealed Methicillin-resiliant MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus) on seat-back pockets that lasted for up to 168 hours. They also found a specific strain of E Coli–known for causing cramps, diarrhea and vomiting—survived up to 96 hours on armrests.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers reported that the ‘risk of transmission” was significantly higher from any of the “non-porous surfaces”. Some of the specific numbers were startling. The transmission of MRSA in sweat on tray tables and window shades was determined to be at 44.4 percent. After a period of three days the transmission of E.Coli dropped to zero.

Kiril Vaglenov, the leader of the Auburn University research team, stated: “Our data show that both of these bacteria (E.Coli and MRSA) can survive for days on these surfaces, particularly the porous material such as armrests and seat-pockets. Air travelers should be aware of the risk of catching or spreading a disease to other passengers and practice good personal hygiene.”

Vaglenov concluded: “The take-home message is be careful about your hand hygiene and don’t travel while contagious or immune compromised.”

Planes Carry Cargoes Of E.Coli

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.