Fomites (singular: fomes) are used in medicine to refer to inanimate porous or non-porous objects, or surfaces colonized with microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi) and serve as vehicles for transmitting many pathogenic microorganisms . Some examples of fomites are clothing, mobile phones, handrails, doorknobs, light switches, medical equipment, countertops, computer mice, computer keyboards .

Fomite transmission contributes to the spread of infectious diseases to susceptible hosts . Control or prevent infectious agents' spread requires a clear understanding of pathogens transmission in the environment . The prevention of many infectious diseases is by environmental hygiene with fomite-targeted interventions, emphasizing hands-on cleaning and disinfection of fomites .


Fomites is derived from Latin and in the original Latin the singular form is fomes, and this has been directly transplanted to modern English. Therefore the form "fomite" is a linguistically-incorrect back-formation and should not be used. However articles will be seen where it is used, often by people, e.g. microbiologists, who should really know better !

History and etymology

The word fomites was first used as early as the 1500s by the Italian physician and polymath Girolamo Fracastoro  (1483-1553) . This word derives from the Latin word fomes, which meant dust, touchwood, or kindling-wood .