is any inanimate
object or substance
capable of carrying infectious organisms
(such as germs
) and hence transferring them from one individual to another. A fomite can be anything (such as a cloth or mop head), so when cleaning, it is important to remember that such could aid the spread of pathogenic organisms. Skin cells, hair, clothing, and bedding are common hospital sources of contamination.
Fomites are associated particularly with hospital acquired infections (HAI), as they are possible routes to pass pathogens between patients. Stethoscopes and neckties are two such fomites associated with doctors. Basic hospital equipment, such as IV drip tubes, catheters, and life support equipment can also be carriers, when the pathogens form biofilms on the surfaces. Careful sterilization of such objects must be undertaken to stop cross-infection.
Researchers discovered that smooth (non-porous) surfaces transmit bacteria and viruses better than porous materials; so one is more likely to pick-up a disease from a door knob than from paper money.. The reason is that porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the contagion, making it harder to contract through simple touch.
The word fomite
is a back-formation from the plural fomites
, which was originally the Latin plural of the singular, fomes
, literally meaning touchwood or tinder. In classical Latin, fomites
was pronounced like a concatenation of English "foe" + "me" + "tays"; but "foe" + "mites" has now become a common pronunciation, and "fomite" (also pronounced with a long 'i') is the singular form in English.
discussion on Language Log