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Top 10 Germs on Your Smartphone


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Corynebacterium
Corynebacterium is the pathogen that causes diphtheria. © Dr. Arthur Siegelman/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
Corynebacterium is the pathogen that causes diphtheria. © Dr. Arthur Siegelman/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

No, this isn't a microorganism that cracks bad jokes. It's a pathogen whose toxic strains cause diphtheria, a potentially deadly disease in which toxins coat the infected person's throat and make it difficult to breathe. Diphtheria starts as a cold, before graduating to a fever and chills, and even heart attack [sources: CDC, Murphy].

Fortunately, vaccinations are widely available in developing countries. In the U.S., the disease is largely nonexistent. That means that the corynebacterium found on cell phone swabs taken by University of Oregon researchers in 2014 probably weren't of the toxic variety [sources: CDC, Murphy, Munoz].