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Auburn study finds harmful bacteria can survive up to a week in airplanes

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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A study released by Auburn University found that E. coli and MRSA can live up to one week inside airplane cabins.

It's news that may have passengers packing extra sanitary wipes.

Kiril Vaglenov, a graduate student in Auburn's Department of Biological Sciences, conducted a two-year study to determine how E. coli O157:H7 and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, would survive on an airplane.

MRSA survived seven days on material from a seat-back pocket while the E. coli for four days.

Researchers tested material from armrests, plastic tray tables, seat-pocket cloth, window shades and metal toilet buttons.

"Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on these surfaces, particularly the porous material such as armrests and seat-pockets," said Vaglenov. "Air travelers should be aware of the risk of catching or spreading a disease to other passengers and practice good personal hygiene."

Researchers say they don't want to scare consumers but to make them aware. They add that there has been no definitive case of a person getting sick from bacteria on a plane.

To stay healthy, experts suggest using alcohol-based sanitary wipes to clean hard surfaces. A Delta spokesperson told FOX6 News that employees clean the seats and other surfaces before each departure.

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