A fomite is any inanimate object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms (such as germ
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

s or parasites) and hence transferring them from one individual to another. A fomite can be anything (such as a cloth or mop head). Skin cells, hair, clothing, and bedding are common hospital sources of contamination.

Fomites are associated particularly with hospital acquired infections
Nosocomial infection
A nosocomial infection , also known as a hospital-acquired infection or HAI, is an infection whose development is favoured by a hospital environment, such as one acquired by a patient during a hospital visit or one developing among hospital staff...

 (HAI), as they are possible routes to pass pathogens between patients. Stethoscope
The stethoscope is an acoustic medical device for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of an animal body. It is often used to listen to lung and heart sounds. It is also used to listen to intestines and blood flow in arteries and veins...

s and necktie
A necktie is a long piece of cloth worn for decorative purposes around the neck or shoulders, resting under the shirt collar and knotted at the throat. Variants include the ascot tie, bow tie, bolo tie, and the clip-on tie. The modern necktie, ascot, and bow tie are descended from the cravat. Neck...

s are two such fomites associated with health care providers. Basic hospital equipment, such as IV drip
Intravenous therapy
Intravenous therapy or IV therapy is the infusion of liquid substances directly into a vein. The word intravenous simply means "within a vein". Therapies administered intravenously are often called specialty pharmaceuticals...

 tubes, catheter
In medicine, a catheter is a tube that can be inserted into a body cavity, duct, or vessel. Catheters thereby allow drainage, administration of fluids or gases, or access by surgical instruments. The process of inserting a catheter is catheterization...

s, and life support equipment can also be carriers, when the pathogens form biofilm
A biofilm is an aggregate of microorganisms in which cells adhere to each other on a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance...

s on the surfaces. Careful sterilization
Sterilization (microbiology)
Sterilization is a term referring to any process that eliminates or kills all forms of microbial life, including transmissible agents present on a surface, contained in a fluid, in medication, or in a compound such as biological culture media...

 of such objects prevents cross-infection.

Researchers have discovered that smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g. door knobs) transmit bacteria and viruses better than porous materials (e.g. 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 (fōmĭtēs) of the singular fōmĕs, literally meaning touchwood or tinder
Tinder is easily combustible material used to ignite fires by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling. Anything that can be ignited by a match can be considered tinder; or by more rigorous definition, anything that begins to glow under a shower of...

. In Classical Latin, fōmĭtēs was pronounced ˈfoːmɪteːs. But the modern English form is generally ˈfoʊmaɪts, with the singular being "fomite" ˈfoʊmaɪt.

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