How dirty is your money?

Harper Adams University in the UK recently posted a news article describing some intriguing work being done by Senior Lecturer Frank Vriesekoop, who has been investigating, among a slew of other interesting topics, whether banknotes can transfer bacteria, including pathogens.  The original paper (unfortunately, not Open Access) in which his work was reported can be found here.

In his study, Vriesekoop and colleagues focused on money found in catering outlets in ten different countries (Australia, Burkina Faso, China, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States) since servers don’t necessarily wash their hands between handling your food and taking your money.  You can breath a sigh of relief-very few pathogens were found on the banknotes, though bacteria survived significantly longer on paper and cotton-based notes (such as those found in the UK and USA) than they did on plastic-based notes (such as those found in Australia).  Intriguingly, as a result of this research, the UK has decided to circulate plastic-based bank notes by 2016.

The question regarding how dirty, microbially, our money is has really piqued the interests of researchers all over, not just Frank Vriesekoop (an small example of studies is listed below).  I think for the time being, however, we can rest assured that our money is not playing a significant, if any, role in transferring potentially dangerous pathogens.

A smattering of money-microbe research:

1. Bacterial diversity assessed by cultivation-based techniques shows predominance of Staphylococccus species on coins collected in Lisbon and Casablanca

Carla C. C. R. de Carvalho, Maria José Caramujo

FEMS Microbiology Ecology. Apr 2014, Vol. 88, No. 10.1111/fem.2014.88.issue-1: 26-37

EmmanouilAngelakis,Esam IAzhar,Fehmida Bibi, MuhammadYasir, Ahmed KAl-Ghamdi, Ahmad MAshshi, Adel GElshemi, DidierRaoult

Future Microbiology. Feb 2014, Vol. 9: 249-261

Jane-FrancisTatahAkoachere, NanaGaelle, HenryDilonga, Theresa KNkuo-Akenji

BMC Research Notes. Jan 2014, Vol. 7: 16

E.M. Gabriel, A. Coffey, J.M.O’Mahony

Journal of Applied Microbiology. Aug 2013, Vol. 115, No. 10.1111/jam.2013.115.issue-2: 565-571

Nils-Olaf Hübner, Claudia Hübner, Axel Kramer, Ojan Assadian

AJN, American Journal of Nursing. Dec 2011, Vol. 111:30-34

Embriette Hyde

Embriette Hyde is a postdoctoral associate in Rob Knight's lab at UCSD.