This morning I stopped at a coffee shop that uses an iPad for a cash reg­ister. I ordered a muffin, a coffee, and paid with a credit card. The bar­rista swiped my card and piv­oted the iPad to face me, so that I could sign with my finger on the screen. I was about to when I recalled new research out of North­eastern that finds public iPads are among the most germ-​​infested places you’re likely to put your hands all day.

The research was con­ducted by Betsy Hirsch and her col­leagues in the Depart­ment of Phar­macy Prac­tice, and pre­sented last week at IDWeek, an annual infec­tious dis­ease con­fer­ence, held this year in San Fran­cisco. According to a recent post on a North­eastern research blog, Duncan and her team ana­lyzed bac­teria on the screens of 30 iPads belonging to mem­bers of the North­eastern fac­ulty. Half of those 30 iPads were used in hos­pi­tals by fac­ulty mem­bers with clin­ical respon­si­bil­i­ties, and the other half were used around campus the way anyone might use an iPad. Duncan found that hos­pital expo­sure or not, it didn’t matter: both groups of iPads were teeming with bac­teria, including mul­tiple drug-​​resistant strains.

The article noted that Apple is rumored to be exper­i­menting with antibac­te­rial screens for future iPads. In the mean­time, beware of public touch screens. For my part, I signed my name at the coffee shop with my knuckle, and hoped for the best.

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