Airplanes are even dirtier than you think. According to a new report, disease-causing bacteria can stay on surfaces in commercial airplane cabins for up to a week. Researchers say that this bacteria is particularly found in seat-back pockets and even on armrests.

Research teams found that disease-causing bacteria like E-Coli and MRSA can live on planes for several days, the Daily Mail reports.

Kiril Vaglenoz, a graduate student from Auburn University's Department of Biological Sciences, held a two-year-long study to determine how long bacteria like E. coli O157:H7 and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, can stay on airplane surfaces under standard conditions. The research was funded by the Federal Aviation Administration's Airliner Cabin Environmental Research Center.

The research material was provided by a major airline carrier. They provided samples from armrests, plastic tray tables, seat-pocket cloth, window shades and metal toilet buttons.

"Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on these surfaces, particularly the porous material such as armrests and seat-pockets," said Vaglenov. "Air travelers should be aware of the risk of catching or spreading a disease to other passengers and practice good personal hygiene."

The study found that bacteria must survive the environmental conditions in an airplane in order for it to be transmitted from an airplane surface to a person.
During the study, Vaglenov created the same temperature and humidity levels that are usually found during commercial flights. He found that MRSA had the longest life of 168 hours in the seat-back pocket and E. coli O157:H7 lived for 96 hours on the armrests of airplanes.

"The point of this study is not to be alarmist, but to point out to the airlines the importance of providing a sanitary environment for travelers," Professor Jim Barbaree, director of the study and mentor for Vaglenov said according to the Mail. "We want to work with them to minimize the risks to human health."

The results of the study were presented during an annual American Society for Microbiology meeting this week.

Taking this information, the Auburn research team is trying to figure out how long pathogens that cause other diseases like tuberculosis can survive on a flight. The information will help airlines to determine what specific disinfecting procedures can be used to reduce the health risks on planes.