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Dirty money: UK coins and banknotes are a 'breeding ground' for bacteria

The i logo The i 02/10/2018 Katie Grant

a close up of a coin © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The coins and banknotes in our wallets have become a “breeding ground” for bacteria, according to research examining what lurks on the surface of the cash we touch every day.

Academics at London Metropolitan University (LMU) tested a random selection of coins and notes of all denominations and discovered the presence of 19 kinds of bacteria, including two life threatening bacteria associated with antibiotic resistant superbugs - Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Enterococcus faecium (VRE).

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Bugs adapting to metal

Bacteria associated with MRSA was discovered on the 2p, 5p, 10p, £1 and £2 coins, as well as the £10, £20 and £50 notes, according to the study, commissioned by the financial comparison website money.co.uk. MRSA can lead to boils, skin infections, food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

The coins and banknotes in our wallets have become a “breeding ground” for bacteria, according to research examining what lurks on the surface of the cash we touch every day. © getty The coins and banknotes in our wallets have become a “breeding ground” for bacteria, according to research examining what lurks on the surface of the cash we touch every day. The bacteria Enterococcus faecium was found on the 2p, 5p and 10p coins as well as the £10 note. This bacteria can cause blood, abdomen, skin and urinary tract infections.

“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,” said Dr Paul Matewele, professor of microbiology at LMU.

“The bugs have adapted to their environment, resulting in coins becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria,” he added.

Cash is still king

UK coins and banknotes may be dirty but cash remains king here for the time being as we edge closer to a cashless society.

Among the general population, almost everyone uses cash (98 per cent), with nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) using it frequently to pay for goods and services, according to the results of a survey from Which? published on Wednesday. One in 20 people (five per cent) said they rarely use cash.  

The number of free-to-use ATMS dropped by 1,300 between the end of January and the start of July this year - the equivalent of about 250 per month, recent figures from the cashpoint network Link reveal.

Lower-income families and older people are being hit the hardest by these closures, Which? noted.

Gallery: The world's most counterfeited currencies (Lovemoney)


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