A recent study conducted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has found that popular wearable technology devices, such as Apple Watch and Fitbit wristbands, harbor harmful bacteria. Published in the science journal Advances in Infectious Diseases, the study revealed that nearly all tested wristbands were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria.
Researchers at FAU tested wristbands made of plastic, rubber, cloth, leather, and metal (gold and silver) to determine if there was a correlation between the material and bacteria build-up. They discovered that 95% of the wristbands were contaminated with bacteria that can cause various health issues. Specifically, 85% of the wristbands contained Staphylococcus spp, which is responsible for staph infections, while 60% had E. coli bacteria, and 30% harbored potentially lethal Pseudomonas spp.
The study also found that individuals who frequently visited the gym had higher bacteria counts for staph infections. Staph infections can lead to sepsis or even death, highlighting the importance of sanitizing wristbands after physical activity.
While activity levels were associated with bacterial growth, the texture of the wristband material seemed to be the most significant factor. Plastic and rubber wristbands had higher bacteria counts compared to metal wristbands, particularly those made of gold and silver. The porous and static surfaces of plastic and rubber wristbands create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
The study showed no discernible difference in bacterial growth based on gender when the watches were worn. However, senior author Nwadiuto Esiobu, PhD, stated that there is a need for regular sanitation of these surfaces due to the quantity and taxonomy of bacteria found on the wristbands. Even at relatively low numbers, these pathogens have public health significance.
Dr. Esiobu also highlighted the importance of healthcare workers who are active gym-goers taking extra precautions in sanitizing their watches. This is to avoid potentially infecting at-risk patients. Healthcare workers, in particular, should be cautious about transmitting bacteria from their wristbands to vulnerable individuals.
In conclusion, the study conducted by FAU reveals that Apple Watch and Fitbit wristbands are hotspots for harmful bacteria. Regular sanitization of these wristbands, especially for active individuals and healthcare workers, is crucial in preventing the transmission of bacteria that can cause diseases and infections.