In case you didn’t have enough to worry about – NYU researchers have confirmed what we long have suspected, namely that your money is in need of laundering, perhaps in a vat of bleach, or radiation, or whatever it is that kills pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori and Corynebacterium diphtheriae.…
In the first comprehensive study of the DNA on dollar bills, researchers at New York University’s Dirty Money Project found that currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria as bank notes pass from hand to hand.
By analyzing genetic material on $1 bills, the NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria in all—many times more than in previous studies that examined samples under a microscope. Even so, they could identify only about 20% of the non-human DNA they found because so many microorganisms haven’t yet been cataloged in genetic data banks.
Easily the most abundant species they found is one that causes acne. Others were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections, the scientists said. Some carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.
“It was quite amazing to us,” said Jane Carlton, director of genome sequencing at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology where the university-funded work was performed. “We actually found that microbes grow on money.”
The DNA was as diverse as New York. About half of it was human. The researchers found bacteria, viruses, fungi and plant pathogens. They saw extremely minute traces of anthrax and diphtheria. They identified DNA from horses and dogs—even a snippet or two of white rhino DNA.
“We had a lot of the spectrum of life represented on money,” said NYU genome researcher Julia Maritz, who did much of the DNA analysis.
(click here to continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – WSJ.com.)
The research hasn’t been finished yet, nor published, I’ll be curious as to what else they find.
So far, Carlton and her colleagues have sequenced all the DNA found on about 40 dollar bills from a Manhattan bank. Their findings aren’t published yet. But she gave Shots a sneak peak of what they’ve found so far.
The most common microbes on the bills, by far, are ones that cause acne. The runners-up were a bunch of skin bacteria that aren’t pathogenic: They simply like to hang out on people’s bodies. Some of these critters may even protect the skin from harmful microbes, Carlton says.
Other money dwellers included mouth microbes — because people lick their fingers when they count bills, Carlton says — and bacteria that thrive in the vagina. “People probably aren’t washing their hands after the bathroom,” she says.
What about the traces of anthrax DNA? Not a cause for alarm, Carlton says.
“Anthrax is a very common bacteria in soil,” she says. “People who work with soil, like farmers, are often exposed to it. It’s only when anthrax is weaponized and sent through the mail that it causes those issues.”
The DNA survey also detected genes that make bacteria impervious to penicillin and methicillin. The latter make MRSA bacteria such dangerous pathogens.
(click here to continue reading Dirty Money: A Microbial Jungle Thrives In Your Wallet | Boise State Public Radio.)
Cosmo Kramer was on to something1
“A body-temperature wallet is a petri dish,” said Philippe Etienne, managing director of Innovia Security Pty Ltd., which makes special bank-note paper for 23 countries.
A human touch compounds the problem. Bacteria can feed on the waxy residue of skin and oils that builds up on bills in circulation.
“We provide the nutrients when we handle the bank notes,” said Brown University physicist Nabil Lawandy, who is president of Spectra Systems Corp. in Rhode Island, which designs currency-security features for 19 central banks.
Researchers have also explored the fibrous surface of paper money. Using traditional cell-culture techniques, research groups in India, the Netherlands and the U.S. have isolated about 93 species of bacteria clinging to paper bills. In 2012, microbiologists at Queen Mary University of London found that about 6% of English bank notes tested had levels of e.coli bacteria comparable to a toilet seat.
a partial list of the findings:
- Total DNA found: 1.2 billion segments
- Percentage human: 27%-48%
- Bacterial DNA: 54 million segments
- Sampler of bacteria identified:
- Acinetobacter species:antibiotic-resistant infections
- Staphylococcus aureus: skin infections
- Bacillus cereus: food-borne illness
- Escherichia coli: food poisoning
- Helicobacter pylori: gastric ulcers
- Corynebacterium diphtheriae: diphtheria
The simpler solution is to have a strong immune system, but it wouldn’t hurt to wash your hands more often…Footnotes:
- On Seinfeld, a running theme was that Kramer didn’t carry a wallet [↩]