How Filthy is Your Money?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaHow often do you handle money, specifically paper currency? Do you typically wash your hands after you handle it? Read on and you just might be reaching for a bottle of hand sanitizer at the very sight of money. And you will certainly feel pity for the bank teller that has to handle cash all day long. Consider that paper currency, made of 75% cotton and 25% linen, stays in circulation for 5 to 15 years. Imagine wearing a pair of jeans or shirt that long and never washing it. Gross! Let’s take a look at just how filthy money is…

Biologist Julia Maritz and her intrepid colleagues from the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University wanted to find out just how filthy paper currency is. Their study, “Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City” was published on PLOS One on April 6, 2017. The researchers swapped circulating $1 bills (since they have the highest volume and shortest lifespan of all currencies) from New York City bank in the winter and summer of 2013. They utilized metagenomic sequencing to profile the microbes found on the paper currency’s surface. “So what did they find?” you ask. You may not want to know. The researchers identified more than 397 bacterial species, including the following:

Bacteria from the skin
Propionibacterium acnes
Staphylococcus epidermis

Bacteria from the mouth
Micrococcus luteus
Streptococcus oralis
Rothia (R. mucilaginosa, dentocariosa)

Bacteria from the mouth or stomach
Veillonella parvula

Bacteria from the vagina
Corynebacterium aurimucosum
Gardnerella vaginalis
Xanthomonas campestris

Opportunistic pathogen
Acinetobacter baumannii

Bacteria associated with dairy production and fermentation
Lactococcus lactis
Streptococcus thermopiles

If that isn’t enough to make you heave, Jonathan Oyler and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health published a study in 1996 that found traces of cocaine in 79% of $1 bills from cities across the United States. Other studies have identified the presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus. Are you completely disgusted by now?

One thing is for sure — you’ll think twice the next time someone asks: “what’s in your wallet?”

Read related posts: What Has the Most Germs in a House?
Weird Phobias You Didn’t Even Know Existed

For further reading:

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