How Dirty is Money? Researchers Found 3,000 Types of Bacteria on 80 $1 Bills

How Dirty is Money

So how dirty is that money you are carrying around in your wallet? A recent study identified 3,000 types of bacteria on $1 bills from a Manhattan bank.

According to the study conducted by New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, most of the bacteria found was unsurprisingly microbes found on the skin, while others matched those found in mouths.

The study found one bacteria that causes acne, while others were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections, the scientists said. Some carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance genes, such as MRSA.

The researchers could identify only about 20 percent of the non-human DNA they found because so many microorganisms haven’t yet been cataloged in genetic data banks.

“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.

“It was quite amazing to us. We are finding viable bacteria that can be taken from paper currency,” said Jane Carlton, the lead investigator of the study and director of genome sequencing at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology. “We actually found that microbes grow on money. That means that money could function as a form of transmission.”

Nonetheless, the NYU biologists said that there is no reason to overreact. “Microbes are so important, are very ubiquitous and they surround us all the time,” Carlton told ABC News. “We did find certain microbes that we might be a little concerned about, but that doesn’t mean that people should be unduly concerned.”

The study was part of a pilot project to identify bacteria and health trends in New York City.

In their experiment, the NYU researchers analyzed the DNA found on 80 $1 bills that they collected last year from an unnamed bank in Manhattan.

The dollar bills yielded about 1.2 billion DNA segments. It took 320 gigabytes of digital storage to hold all the genetic data—roughly the amount needed to hold an entire library of traditional medical texts. “We were casting the broadest possible net,” said NYU senior research scientist Steven Sullivan.

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