BANGALORE, March 25, 2011
An employee counts currency notes at a cash counter in a bank in Agartala. — Photo: Reuters
A new study published in the latest edition of Current Science has found that every single currency note and 96 per cent of coins carry various strains of bacteria, of which at least three species are highly infectious.
If that weren't enough, this widely handled article may be assisting in the spread of drug-resistant strains of bacteria, found the paper, one of few such studies conducted on Indian currency.
The research paper, titled 'Screening of currency in circulation for bacterial contamination' was authored by Akshay Sharma and B. Dhanashree of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University.
As part of their study, the researchers each collected 25 samples of currency notes and coins, using a random sampling technique.
Responsible for diseases
Microbial screening showed that a surprising 96 per cent of coins and 100 per cent of the currency notes were found to be contaminated with different bacterial species. Of these, three pathogenic species — Staphylococcus aureus,Klebsiella spp and Escherichia coli – were found to be responsible for various gastric and respiratory diseases.
Tests showed that the bacteria were considerably resistant to commonly used antibiotics. For instance, S. aureus showed 100 per cent resistance to penicillin, while 50 per cent of Klebsiella spp were resistant to piperacillin. E. coli was resistant to ampicillin and piperacillin.
Bacteria such as Klebsiella spp. were known to cause hospital-acquired infections, and are most commonly involved in respiratory tract infections.
The paper advised medical professionals and food handlers, in particular, to sanitise their hands after handling currency to prevent cross-contamination.