It’s no surprise that the automatic teller machines that dispense money and accept deposits are crawling with bacteria: Their buttons are mashed by hundreds of people daily. But exactly what kind of bacteria they transfer to your fingers depends on where you’re cashing out.
For a study recently published in the journal mSphere, researchers at New York University swabbed 66 ATMs in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Standard skin microbes from the Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria families were abundant in all the samples, as well as food-sourced bacteria from fish, chicken, and mollusks. But keypads in laundromats and retail stores harbored a higher amount, particularly lactic acid bacteria from milk products.
ATMs located in predominantly white neighborhoods in the city contained the foodborne mold Xeromyces bisporus, which is typically found on spoiled baked goods—suggesting that people toting food around might be eating on the go (and that their snacks weren't terribly fresh).
If the thought of picking up moldy bread germs seems uninviting, there is hope. ATM manufacturer Diebold is teaming with glassmaker Corning for a line of antibacterial touch screens containing ionic silver. The bad news? That money you take out is still probably going to be filthy with germs. A past study by NYU found that bills can actually grow microbes leading to staph infections, acne, and other ailments.
[h/t Arizona Daily Sun]