Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lap Top Germs

Okay, let’s admit it. We all have an experience of dabbing our computer keyboards and mice with red or yellow seasoning powders of our all-time-favorite chip, Cheetos, or with saliva-laden fingertips. Laptops have become essential part in every moment of people’s lives as they are the means of communication, education, entertainment, shopping and accessing personal haven. It is only natural to have one’s laptop running while eating and it is thus also natural to color the keyboards and mice with whatever remnant of your fingertips. But guess what? It is not only the food remnants or fingerprints that linger in your keyboard. Bacteria on our skins also jump off from our dancing fingertips and settle in their new habitat—keyboards and mice. I have always been curious about the sanitation of keyboards and I read an interesting blog post by Ed Yong. What is more interesting is that the community of bacteria and microscopic cohabitors on our skin can identify us to a certain degree. On average, we only share 13% of the bacteria on each other’s hands. Even identical twins develop different population of bacteria on their skin. Noah Fierer from University of Colorado has proposed that these dislodged microbes could help identify criminals in investigation. However, David Foran from Michigan State University’s Forensic Biology Laboratory dissents this view for he claims that although bacteria match can narrow the investigation, it cannot pinpoint the person in question. Plus, if there are multiple users for a computer, it will be difficult to identify who the person in question is. But whatever the case, I think it is pretty gross that we all have bacteria that resembles our DNA leaving traces of us after we touch something. Thank goodness we got Purell these days.

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