London Metropolitan University and financial comparison website money.co.uk have teamed up and put money under the microscope, and found life threatening bacteria.
Dr. Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at London Met, and his students took 36 samples from a random selection of all denominations of coins and notes. The microbiologists studied the bacteria in a controlled lab environment over a period of eight weeks.
Unsurprisingly, the results of the study found that cash is a breeding ground for dirt and bacteria.
19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer £5 and £10 notes, as well as paper £20 and £50 notes, including two life-threatening bacteria associated with antibiotic-resistant superbugs: Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Enterococcus faecium (VRE). The life-threatening airborne bacteria, Listeria, was also found.
Bacteria found in faeces was also present on the cash swabbed, which can cause urinary tract infections and septicaemia, along with bacteria that can cause thrush, nappy rash and diarrhoea.
Dr. Matewele said: “One of the most shocking discoveries was finding so many microorganisms thriving on metal, an element you wouldn’t normally expect to see germs surviving on. The bugs have adapted to their environment, resulting in coins becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
“People who have compromised immune systems could be most at risk from handling dirty money – if you’re visiting people in hospital who might be vulnerable to infection, you could unknowingly transfer bacteria off your cash which is resistant to antibiotics.”
Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, said: “We were really shocked when the results revealed two of the world’s most dangerous bacteria were on the money we tested.
“We thought the new polymer notes would be cleaner but were stunned to find out even they were growing some life-threatening bugs. These findings could reinforce the argument for moving towards a cashless society and might be the nail in the coffin for our filthy coppers. I suspect people may think twice before choosing to pay with cash, knowing they could be handed back change laced with superbugs.
“We’d recommend and remind people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling money to help prevent spreading these harmful bacteria.”