By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/24/2014 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
You really shouldn't put your money where your mouth is: Dollar bills are awash with all manner of microbes that can cause illness. Truly, a recent study gives new meaning to the term "filthy rich."
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers at New York University's Dirty Money Project discovered that currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria as bank notes pass from hand to hand.
Analyzing $1 bills, NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria in all-many times more than in previous studies. Scientists could identify only about 20 percent of the non-human DNA because so many microorganisms have yet to be cataloged in genetic data banks.
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NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria on a set of one-dollar bills collected in New York.
Easily the most abundant species they found is one that causes acne. Other bacteria discovered were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, and food poisoning and staph infections. Even worse, some of the bills carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.
"It was quite amazing to us," Jane Carlton, director of genome sequencing at NYU's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology says. "We actually found that microbes grow on money."
From rupees to euros, paper money is one of the most frequently passed items in the world. It's been a longstanding concern that these bills could become a source of contagion.
"A body-temperature wallet is a petri dish," Philippe Etienne, managing director of Innovia Security Pty Ltd. Says. His company makes special bank-note paper for 23 countries.
Central banks and state treasuries usually worry more about counterfeiting and durability than microbiology, several currency experts said. With nearly 150 billion new bank notes circulated every year around the world, governments spend nearly $10 billion annually to provide people with notes that are fit to hold.
Printed on a cotton-linen blend, a U.S. bill lasts little more than 21 months. In all, the U.S. Federal Reserve System is spending $826.7 million on new money this year to make 7.8 billion bank notes with a total face value of $297.1 billion.
Countries from Canada to the Kingdom of Bhutan are printing bank notes on sheets of flexible plastic polymer film, with implications for the microbiology of money. Bacteria is found less on polymer bills than on cotton-based ones.
"The thing about a polymer note is that it is not absorbent," Etienne says. "There is a cleanliness benefit, which is a health issue."
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