Bacteria can set up camp in the surfaces inside airplanes for up to a week.
This lingering bacteria can be disease-causing and harmful, an, American Society of Microbiology news release reported.
"Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins," says Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University who presented the data. "This report describes the results of our first step in investigating this potential problem."
In order for these bacteria to be transmitted from human to human it must have the ability to live on surfaces for a period of time.
Researchers looked at how methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 could survive on a surface outside of the human body. They tested the bacteria on surfaces such as an "armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather," the news release reported.
MRSA proved to have a longer life, it was able to survive for about 168 hours on material from an airplane seat pocket. The E. coli O157:H7 survived on armrest material for about 96 hours.
"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 said.
The researchers hope to continue their work on the subject in the future.
"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," Vaglenov said.
The team is currently participating in trials that look at other bacteria, such as the pathogen responsible for tuberculosis.