A fomite is any object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms (such as germs or parasites) 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. [Cite journal
volume = 60
issue = 10
last = Abad
first = F X
coauthors = R M Pintó, A. Bosch
title = Survival of enteric viruses on environmental fomites
journal = Applied and Environmental Microbiology
date = 1994-10
pmid= 7986043
] [Cite journal
doi = 12597308
issn = 0038-4348
volume = 95
issue = 12
pages = 1408–10
last = Pope
first = Theodore W
coauthors = Peter T Ender, William K Woelk, Michael A Koroscil, Thomas M Koroscil
title = Bacterial contamination of paper currency
journal = Southern Medical Journal
date = 2002-12
doi_brokendate = 2008-07-05
] . 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.

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  • fómite — Material inerte, como la ropa de cama, que puede transportar organismos patógenos. Diccionario Mosby Medicina, Enfermería y Ciencias de la Salud, Ediciones Hancourt, S.A. 1999 …   Diccionario médico

  • fómite — (Del lat. fomes, ĭtis). m. desus. fomes …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • fomite — fò·mi·te s.m. 1. OB ciò che serve ad alimentare il fuoco 2. BU lett., fig., causa, incentivo, spec. di un male: essere fomite di discordia 3. TS bot. fungo del genere Fomite, parassita delle piante legnose | con iniz. maiusc., genere della… …   Dizionario italiano

  • fómite — fomes o fómite (del lat. «fomes, ĭtis») m. *Causa que promueve o excita una cosa. ⊚ Med. Objeto, por ejemplo ropas de cama o vestidos, que puede ser portador de infección. * * * fómite. (Del lat. fomes, ĭtis). m. desus. fomes …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Fomite — On appelle « fomites » les objets contaminés par des pathogènes et susceptibles de propager une infection d un individu à un autre lors du phénomène de contagion. Il est remarquable alors que les maladies contagieuses sont la première… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • fomite — SYN: fomes. [L. fomitis, gen. of fomes. See fomes.] * * * fo·mite fō .mīt n, pl fo·mites .mīts; fäm ə .tēz, fōm an inanimate object (as a dish, toy, book, doorknob, or clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in… …   Medical dictionary

  • fomite — {{hw}}{{fomite}}{{/hw}}s. m. Istigazione, stimolo, incentivo: il fomite delle ribellioni …   Enciclopedia di italiano

  • fomite — noun (plural fomites) Etymology: back formation from fomites, from New Latin, plural of fomit , fomes, from Latin, kindling wood; akin to Latin fovēre to heat more at foment Date: 1803 an object (as a dish or an article of clothing) that may be… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fomite — (fo maīt; pl., fomites) An object that is not in itself harmful but is able to harbor and transmit pathogenic organisms. Also called fomes …   Dictionary of microbiology

  • fomite — fo·mite (fōʹmīt ) n. An inanimate object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another.   [Back formation from New Latin fōmitēs, pl. of Latin fōmes, tinder, from fovēre, to warm. See dhegʷh . *… …   Universalium

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