Deadly germs thriving on buttons people touch every day

Dr. Philip Tierno
Dr. Philip Tierno

By Lynda Baquero

NEW YORK (NBC) - They're all around you, but you can't see them.

We're talking about potentially dangerous germs on buttons you use almost every day.

Computer keyboards, telephones just some of the buttons many of us press all the time.

But do you know what might be living on those surfaces?

Doctor Philip Tierno is a renowned microbiologist at NYU Medical Center.

We took a swab from a frequently-used office telephone. Even a microwave. We also checked the keyboard of a computer.And an outdoor ATM.

And turned in the samples for testing.

"The results today were very typical of what we ordinarily see. The contamination by humanity on various surfaces," said Tierno.

Remember that microwave oven?

"A few colonies of a mouth streptococcus, which is non-pathogenic, and an entrococcus, which represents fecal bacteria and a few yeast. There are two colonies of yeast, that white colony. Probably a female might have touched that," Tierno said.

The elevator button proved the most potentially hazardous.

"Had pure culture of staph and that can give rise to a skin infection or even a gastroenteritis," according to Tierno.

The keyboard had some skin staph, the phone traces of strep. And the culture from the ATM buttons?

"And then you had e-coli. Feces is the number one problem we really have in humanity. We're bathed in feces because people simply don't properly wash their hands." Tierno said.

Tierno's advice?

What he and others have said over and over again: wash your hands -- for about thirty seconds with antibacterial soap or an alcoholic gel. Doing that can dramatically reduce your risk from germs.

As warmer weather approaches, heat makes it easier for organisms to grow faster. So it's even more important to keep your hands clean.

And while most people know what to do, Dr. Tierno says not enough people follow that advice.