• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
1m 47s

Deadly germs can live in aircraft cabins for a week

By Jessica Firger / CBS News 1:10 PM May 20, 2014

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 told CBS News.

Health experts recommend passengers always carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Many germ-conscious 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.

CBSNews.com

Latest Stories

  • News

    ANSEP aims to excite students about STEM

    by Makayla Clark on Jun 23, 18:31

    Anchorage students put their designs to the test Friday. They hooked a suspended box onto bridges they designed and built out of balsa wood and glue. They then put metal balls into the boxes until the bridges snapped. “This is a very good opportunity to learn,” Jason Kyle, a student at the academy, said. “I […]

  • Man accused in 7-car hit-and-run charged with DWI

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 23, 17:20

    One man has a laundry list of charges after a hit-and-run on June 9 near the inbound intersection of the Glenn Highway and Airport Heights Drive. Jake Sundog Rotzler-Martus, 31, is charged with first- and third-degree assault, DWI, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident, according to charging documents. On June 9, a […]

  • Politics

    Alaska lawmakers headed home, but session isn’t over yet

    by Liz Raines on Jun 23, 16:50

    Many lawmakers are headed home after passing a budget late Thursday night to prevent a government shutdown next week. But the final gavel hasn’t fallen yet. If lawmakers felt a sense of accomplishment after finally passing a budget, the satisfaction was short-lived. Less than two hours later, Gov. Bill Walker added a new issue to […]

  • News

    Budget cuts threaten rollout of earthquake early warning system

    by CBS News on Jun 23, 16:32

    In an earthquake, having the latest information could be key to survival. At the “quake cottage” in Burbank, California, scientists are working to warn people before earthquakes hit. The facility is home to a state-of-the-art quake simulator where you know exactly when the shaking is going to start. But what if you could get a […]

  • News

    F-16 Thunderbird crashes, flips over at Dayton International Airport

    by CBS News on Jun 23, 16:29

    DAYTON, Ohio — A military plane that was practicing for an air show in heavy fog has crashed at an airport in Ohio, officials said Friday. CBS affiliate WHIO-TV reports an F-16 Thunderbird crashed and overturned shortly before 1 p.m. at the end of a runway at Dayton International Airport. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds […]

  • News

    Was Russian hacking of Ukraine’s power grid a test run for U.S. attack?

    by CBS News on Jun 23, 16:27

    In its July cover story, Wired magazine takes an in-depth look at a years-long string of cyberattacks in Ukraine that could have global implications. It has undermined every sector including the media, military, politics and even people’s homes. Andy Greenberg, who reported the story, and Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss […]

  • News

    White St. Louis police officer shoots off-duty black officer

    by CBS News on Jun 23, 16:24

    A black off-duty St. Louis police officer was shot by a white on-duty police officer from the same department who apparently mistook him for a fleeing suspect, according to a statement from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. At about 10 p.m. Wednesday evening, St. Louis police received a report that a stolen vehicle had […]

  • News

    Teen’s molester moves in next door upon prison release

    by CBS News on Jun 23, 16:19

    CREEK COUNTY, Oklahoma – An Oklahoma family wants to change the state law that allowed the man who molested their daughter years ago to move in next door after getting out of prison, reports CBS affiliate KWTV. “I don’t like feel like I can come home,” says Danyelle Dyer, who is now speaking out about […]