Oops, filthy cash! (Literally.)
They may say money makes the world go round. But it can also transmit bacteria as you pass it.
"Currency is possibly one of the main media transmitting pathogens and drug resistance due to its wide circulation in daily life," said a team of researchers hailing from the University of Hong Kong, the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control in China, and Germany's Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology.
With several outbreaks Hong Kong has faced since the 1960s (influenza pandemic, avian flu, SARS and swine flu), researchers wanted to know mechanisms by which infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance spread throughout the world (through money).
They scraped bacteria samples of HK $20 notes they've collected from different places throughout Hong Kong. And with this, they found that the dollar bills can harbor different bacteria and is also a good medium to spread infectious diseases. "In short, banknotes act as a medium 'absorbing' bacteria from other environments and the potential pathogens live quite well on the banknote surface," said study co-author Jun Li, a researcher from the University of Hong Kong, in a news release.
Particularly (oh, you wouldn't like this), money had a lot more diverse bacteria samples than our own hands (human hands), drinking water, and even the air in metro stations! These can even have those genetically antibiotic-resistant type of bacteria.
"The most important recommendation we could raise is that before a cashless society develops, the banks and government should pay extra attention to the hygiene problem of the currency, which is still frequently used in our daily life," Li said, in the release. "We recommend some routine disinfection of the currency from the bank, some public service ads reminding people to pay attention to wash the hands after touching currencies and the promotion of more electronic payment service, like mobile payment. We particularly would like to see the politicians and policy-makers inspired by this study."