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Pathogens Can Live for a Week in Airplane Seat-Back Pockets

Disease-causing bacteria like MRSA and E. coli are remarkably good at surviving the in-flight environment.
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Here's something to think about next time you reach for an in-flight magazine: That seat-back pocket, if left uncleaned, can harbor harmful pathogens for as long as a week after some contaminated person leaves them there.

That's one of the fun findings of an FAA-backed experiment carried out by scientists at Auburn University in Alabama and elsewhere. After obtaining samples of common cabin fixtures like the armrest and toilet-flush button, they smeared them with artificial sweat and saliva rife with either E. coli or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Then they watched as the germs stubbornly refused to die, with MRSA lasting for 7 days in the seat pocket and E. coli for four days on the armrest.