DNA has been studied by researchers for many different reasons, and this week a report was released that focused on the infectious bacteria found on dollar bills. The researchers at New York University’s Dirty Money Project found that currency is a mode of transport and exchange of thousands of different bacterium.
The NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria. Many more than previous studies examined under a microscope. 20 percent of what was examined was of non-human DNA, while much more could be present as many microorganism have not yet been cataloged in known genetic data banks.
The organism that was most readily noticed was the infectious bacteria that can cause acne. Others were linked to ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract, pneumonia, staph, and food poisoning.
The director of the genome sequencing Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at the University said, “it was quite amazing to us…we actually found that microbes grow on money.” Infectious bacteria are now a threat everywhere paper money exist.
Some countries like Canada have been printing bank notes on sheets of flexible polymer film as another study warrants this precaution.
Researchers at Australia’s University of Ballarat tested many bills in 10 different countries. The levels of bacteria varied widely from place to place, but a significant finding showed that polymer notes did not hold as many colonies.
However, some infectious bacteria grow more on plastic bank notes as well. A report was published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. Bacteria is believed to feed on human oils and residue from the skin that builds on bank notes through circulation.
In 2012, a microbiologist at Queen Mary University of London found that 6 percent of English bank notes were found to hold the same amount of E.coli bacteria as a typical toilet seat. The recent NYU study was able to identify the level of bacteria only because of the databases available. The infectious bacteria found on the dollar bill is the same bacteria that causes serious health issues.
E. coli is a germ that lives in the digestive tracts of both humans and animals. Usually, this infection is acquired by coming into contact with fecal matter from other humans or animals. The main symptoms of this condition is usually bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting. Some people can recover on their own, but E. coli can also cause serious problems for the blood and kidneys of a human.
Dollar bills yield about 1.2 billion DNA segments, reports the Wall Street Journal. This is about 320 gigabytes of digital storage that would be roughly the amount of space needed to store an entire library of traditional medical texts. Only half of the DNA found were human.
Another study by the Wright Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio found that randomly traded dollar bills from high school concession stands were filled with so much bacteria it could make someone sick. Five of the bills contained bacteria that could cause infection in perfectly healthy people, and 59 bills (87 percent of the sample size), were contaminated with bacteria that could cause an infection in any person with a compromised immune system.
Only four bills were in generally clean condition. This particular report provided support for further investigation into the likelihood of transmission of the bacterium to a person’s system. There is enough evidence now, however, to support the common belief that infectious bacteria is found on dollar bills.
By Lindsey Alexander