Fomites are objects or materials (such as pens, pencils, notebooks, door handles, clothing, furniture, or personal electronics) that are likely to carry infection when contaminated. Many infectious agents can survive on fomites for extended periods of time. It is important to be aware of the potential for contamination of personal items in the laboratory, and take steps to avoid this. Common routes of contamination include: using cell phones or ipods on the bench, touching your clothes with contaminated items, or bringing lab items home with you.

Best practices to avoid fomite contamination:

  • Dedicated lab notebooks and writing utensils that do not leave the lab
  • Do not use ipods or cell phones while working in the lab
  • Do not touch your face, apply lotion, chapstick, or cosmetics in the lab
  • Do not touch door handles, railings, computers, or elevator buttons with gloves on
  • Wash your hands before leaving the lab
  • If spill pads are used, change them out weekly, or whenever they become contaminated

Proper use and storage of PPE

  • Store lab coats on their own individual hooks, away from personal items
  • Do not reuse disposable gloves, lab coats, sleeves, or respirators. Items that are designed to be one-time use only should be disposed of in the biowaste
  • Reusable PPE should be decontaminated regularly and stored appropriately (not on the bench)

A current example of laboratory-acquired infections that can be attributed to fomite contamination is the Salmonella outbreak linked to teaching labs. This is a recurring and serious issue that is being investigated by the CDC.