LONDON: Another peril can be added to the hazards of the innocent-looking computer keyboard. Not content with encouraging repetitive strain injury, the key pads sometimes harbour more filth than the average lavatory seat and house millions of bacteria which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, a study has shown. A microbiologist carrying out research published yesterday for the Which? Computing magazine examined samples from 33 keyboards and found a variety of bugs including E coli and S aureus, which can cause skin infections and make people ill. The scientist swabbed a lavatory seat and a toilet door handle in a typical London office for comparison. One of the keyboards tested had to be removed from the office because it was five times dirtier than the lavatory seat and home to 150 times the acceptable limit of bacteria. "[It] was increasing the risk of its user becoming ill," said a microbiologist, James Francis. "I haven't seen a reading like that in a very long time - it was off the scale." Two more of the keyboards had "warning levels" of bacteria, while a further two showed high levels of coliform bacteria, which are associated with fecal matter. The research showed that the chief culprit for contamination was people eating at their desks and dropping crumbs which lodge between keys and encourage the growth of millions of bacteria. Other causes included poor personal hygiene, particularly people failing to wash their hands after using the lavatory. Dust, which traps moisture, also provides ideal conditions for the growth of bacteria. Sarah Kidner, the editor of Which? Computing, said: "Most people don't give much thought to the grime that builds up on their PC, but if you don't clean your computer, you might as well eat your lunch off the toilet." The survey, involving more than 4,000 people, found 22 per cent cleaned their keyboard and 27 per cent their monitor on a monthly basis. Just over one in 10 said they never cleaned the keyboard; 20 per cent said they never cleaned their mouse. Guardian News & Media Ewww!!!