19 different bacteria found on UK cash and coins – including life-threatening bugs
Coins and notes are laden with different bacteria, including life-threatening bugs, according to a recent study. With contactless banks card on the rise and everyday coins and notes on the decline, financial comparison website money.co.uk teamed up with the London Metropolitan University to see just how dirty our money is.
Dr Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at London Met, and a group of students took 36 samples from a random selection of all denominations of coins and notes, studying the bacteria over a period of eight weeks. In total, 19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer £5 and £10 notes and paper £20 and £50 notes.
Last year the World Health Organisation (WHO) published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, these bugs posing the greatest threat to human health. Two of these bacteria were found on the cash examined in the study. The 2p, 5p, 10p, £1 and £2 coins, alongside the £10, £20 and £50 notes were all found to have Staphyloccus Aureus (MRSA). However, MRSA is an antibiotic resistant bacteria, which the World Health Organisation has listed as one of the greatest threats to life. MRSA can cause common conditions such as boils, impetigo, food poisoning, cellulitis and toxic shock syndrome. Enterococcus faecium (VRE) was found on the 2p, 5p and 10p coins, alongside the £10 note. This bacteria is also listed on the World Health Organisation’s list of antibiotic resistant bacteria and can cause infections of the abdomen, skin, urinary tract and blood. The life-threatening airborne bacteria Listeria was also found on the 20p, 50p and £1 coins, alongside the £5, £10 and £20 notes. This bacteria can lead to infection which is usually caught by eating contaminated food. Coliforms, which is often found in human and animal faeces, yeast, which can cause candidiasis infections including thrush and nappy rash, and Bacillus lentus, which can produce a toxin that causes diarrhoea, were also found on both coins and notes during the study. In total, 19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer £5 and £10 notes and paper £20 and £50 notes.
‘Coins are becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria’ Dr Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at London Metropolitan University, 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. “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.” “We’d recommend and remind people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling money to help prevent spreading these harmful bacteria.”