MRSA and E coli bacteria can linger on surfaces commonly found in airplane cabins for days - even up to a week, research warns.
"Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins," explained Kiril Vaglenov from Alabama-based Auburn University in the US.
In order for disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from a cabin surface to a person, it must survive the environmental conditions in the airplane.
During the study, Vaglenov and his colleagues tested the ability of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E coli to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes.
They inoculated six different types of material from a major airline carrier with the bacteria and exposed them to typical airplane conditions.
MRSA lasted longest (168 hours) on material from the seat-back pocket while E coli survived longest (96 hours) on the material from the armrest.
"Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present, and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact," Vaglenov emphasised.
They currently have ongoing trials with other human pathogens including the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, said the research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology recently.