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Added Fear Of Flying: Disease-Causing Bacteria Linger On Plane Surfaces

(Doug/flickr)

(Doug/flickr)

Add this to your lengthy list of flying-related miseries: disease-causing bacteria that live on airplane armrests, tray tables, toilet buttons and other surfaces can linger on and on — for up to an entire week.

This new data, with its off-the-charts gross factor, comes from scientists attending the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. From the news release:

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. In the study Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University who presented the data, and his colleagues tested the ability of two pathogens, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes. They obtained six different types of material from a major airline carrier (armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather), inoculated them 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 O157:H7 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,” says Vaglenov.

This research is laying the groundwork for important work to come.

“Our future plans include the exploration of effective cleaning and disinfection strategies, as well as testing surfaces that have natural antimicrobial properties to determine whether these surfaces help reduce the persistence of disease-causing bacteria in the passenger aircraft cabin,” says Vaglenov.

Sudden-Onset OCD In Kids: Possible Causes Broadened, Trial Ongoing


It’s an odd and terrifying phenomenon: Seemingly overnight, a child begins to show extreme symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and nerve trouble, from tics to excessive fears.

A hypothesis, controversial but long gathering steam, proposes that this sudden-onset syndrome could be the result of a strep infection, which triggers antibodies that mistakenly attack part of the brain. The syndrome was originally called PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection — but has now been broadened beyond strep to PANS, or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. Federal research authorities have just put out a release (below) describing the state of the scientific consensus on PANS and a clinical trial using immune-based therapy now under way.

I wrote about PANDAS way back in 2003 for the Boston Globe. The story began:

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine – Sammy Jelin, math whiz and natural comedian, sailed through fifth grade, a school enthusiast eager for the bus each morning. By the start of sixth grade last fall, he could barely make it to school at all: In just weeks, his world had turned into a minefield of germ phobias, invisible walls, and constant tics – hallmarks of obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette’s syndrome. Continue reading