Bacteria thrive in airplane conditions, study shows

Community Health Jun 27, 2014 at 3:03 pm

HEALTH-b1651fcBy Dr. George I. Traitses

It’s no longer just the snoring guy in row 12C: you could be sharing the airplane cabin with some particularly nasty fellow travelers, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and certain strains of E. coli, both potentially deadly. Using actual interior parts from airplanes (armrests, seats, etc.), and simulating flight temperatures and conditions, researchers from Auburn University found that MRSA lasted for 168 hours on seatback pockets and that E. coli, which can cause severe abdominal cramps and vomiting, persisted for 96 hours on armrests, 72 hours on tray tables and 48 hours on toilet flush buttons.

In general, the more porous the surface, the longer the bacteria persisted. “The take-home message is be careful about your hand hygiene and don’t travel while contagious or immune compromised,” said Kiril Vaglenov, a post-doctoral fellow in materials science at Auburn, who led the research.

Source: “What you, and airlines, can do to protect against bacteria when you fly,” by Hank Lambert, The Washington Post, May 23, 2014.

For more information on health and safety visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association; website at or call 1877-327-2273; Dr. George Traitses, 416-499-5656,