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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 179-182

Assessment of microbial contamination of indian currency notes in circulation – An In vitro study

1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sree Anjaneya Institute of Dental Sciences, Kozhikode, Kerala, India
2 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Yenepoya Dental College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
3 Department of Periodontics, Yenepoya Dental College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
4 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Rajas Dental College and Hospital, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission11-Jul-2019
Date of Decision30-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance01-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication24-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sruthi Sunil
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sree Anjaneya Institute of Dental Sciences, Kozhikode, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaphd.jiaphd_77_19

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Background: Currency notes represent a universal medium for transmission of bacteria in the environment and among humans. Care should be taken by those handling these currencies. Aim: To quantitatively assess and compare the total bacterial load of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Proteus species present on the currency notes circulating in the open market area and hospitals in Mangalore city. Methodology: A total of 24 frequently circulated currency notes were collected from open markets and hospitals (12 from each group). They were then deposited in sterile pouches. Samples were collected using moistened cotton swabs and inoculated onto MacConkey agar for bacterial growth. The isolated bacteria were then assessed for the percentage of bacteria and colony-forming units (CFUs) on the notes using standardized microbial analysis. Results: Cultures after microbial analysis showed bacterial contamination with S. aureus, E. coli, Klebsiella, and aerobic spore-bearing bacteria. Approximately >103 CFUs/plate were found. In the hospital group, isolated organisms comprised S. aureus (54%) and E. coli(25%); in the open market areas, E. coli(36%) and S. aureus (38%) were found. Proteus species were not present on any of the samples. Intergroup statistical analysis carried out using the Chi-square test was statistically significant (P = 0.034). Conclusion: The study concluded that the notes from hospitals were contaminated more with S.aureus than in open markets, whereas E. coli was found to be more in open market areas than in hospitals.

Keywords: Bacterial contamination, Escherichia coli, Indian paper currency, pathogens, Staphylococcus aureus

How to cite this article:
Sunil S, Panchmal GS, Shenoy RP, Kumar V, Jodalli P, Somaraj V. Assessment of microbial contamination of indian currency notes in circulation – An In vitro study. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2020;18:179-82

How to cite this URL:
Sunil S, Panchmal GS, Shenoy RP, Kumar V, Jodalli P, Somaraj V. Assessment of microbial contamination of indian currency notes in circulation – An In vitro study. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 7];18:179-82. Available from: https://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2020/18/2/179/287638

  Introduction Top

Microorganisms are known to spread through air, water, food, etc., an important mechanism of the spread of pathogens by fomites.[1] Classic characteristic of human parasite and bacterial agents is the evolution in various routes for transmission to susceptible hosts. The environment plays an important role in transmission of microorganisms to humans with many environmental materials serving as vehicles. These routes of transmission are of great importance in the health of many people in developing countries, where the frequency of infection is a general indication of local hygiene and environmental sanitation level.

Paper/polymer currency notes are widely exchanged for goods[2] and services in countries worldwide.[3],[4] Currency notes which are transferred from one individual to another are known to carry bacteria[5] on their surface and are responsible for transmitting them. The paper/polymer currency notes and coins may harbor various deadly pathogenic microorganisms. Currency in the form of notes represents a universal medium for the transmission of bacteria in the environment and among humans. There is a possibility that currency notes might act as a medium for the transmission of potential pathogenic microorganisms.[6] Very few studies have been reported on contamination of currency notes in developing countries. Shortage of information may contribute to the absence of public health policies regarding currency usage, handling, and circulation. The lower denomination notes receive the most handling because they are exchanged more often. Money may serve as an unrecognized reservoir for pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria. The older the paper notes, the more accumulation of microbes occurs.[7] Contamination may occur during production, during storage, after production, and during use.[8] Simultaneous handling of paper currency notes along with food in public places could cause transmission of microorganisms and can lead to contamination of food. This can also cause nosocomial infections. This, in turn, can be a major public health threat. Banknotes recovered from hospitals may be highly contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus.[9]

Hence, this study is undertaken to quantitatively assess and compare the total bacterial load of S. aureus,  Escherichia More Details coli, and Proteus species present on the currency notes circulating in the open market area and hospitals in Mangalore city.

  Methodology Top

The study was conducted after approval from the institutional ethics committee. Eight currency notes of each denomination (Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100) making it a total of 24 notes were collected, among which four notes of Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100 were obtained randomly from (Group I) open-air markets (food vendors, banks, and gas-filling stations) as well as from hospital cash counters (Group II). Persons handling the notes were asked to deposit them in sterile envelopes [Figure 1]. They were compensated with other currency notes of the same denomination. The study samples were collected based on the level of usage and thus circulation. Currency notes were standardized on the basis of the year of printing, for example, currency notes printed in the year 2013 were considered. Mutilated currency notes were not included in the samples. The currency notes were taken to the laboratory immediately for identification of microorganisms.
Figure 1:Currency note collection

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Microbiological analysis

A sterile cotton swab moistened with sterile physiological saline (0.85% NaCl) was used to swab both sides of each note. To isolate bacteria, the swab was used to inoculate onto MacConkey agar plates by streaking [Figure 2]. The plates were then incubated aerobically at 35°C–37°C for 24-48 hours to allow organisms to grow. Pure cultures were obtained by streaking a small portion of cells from an isolated colony on the corresponding medium and incubating plates overnight at 35°C–37°C. Colonial morphology, as well as hemolytic reactions, was observed. Pure cultures were Gram-stained and tested for motility. Using standard biochemical techniques colonies were counted to calculate the total number present in the unit area of the notes. The total bacteria present in the whole currency notes were assessed.[10]
Figure 2: Bacterial culture and colonization

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Statistical analysis

Data obtained were computed using the Statistical Package of the Social Sciences Version 21 (IBM Statistics, NY, USA, 2012). Intergroup comparison was done using the Chi-square test, and the level of significance was set at 5%.

  Results Top

Microbial examination was carried out for 24 currency notes in which all the currency notes were contaminated with microorganisms. All currency notes (100%) obtained from open market (Group I) and hospital (Group II) were contaminated. Majority of samples were contaminated with both bacteria and fungi (mixed contamination). Identification showed the active participation of these species – E. coli, Klebsiella spp., S. aureus, and aerobic spore-bearing bacteria. Approximately >103 colony-forming units/plate were found. One hundred percent of the notes from open market had bacterial contamination, of which 60% were potentially pathogenic bacteria: S. aureus (38%) and E. coli (21%) were present on all 12 currency notes of denominations Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100 (4 each), whereas Pseudomonas spp. (19%) were found in Rs. 10 and Rs. 50, and anaerobic spore-bearing bacteria (9%) were found in all the denominations [Table 1]. The bacteria isolated from the hospital group notes showed: S. aureus (54%) were isolated from all the 12 currency notes of denominations Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100 (4 each); E. coli (25%) and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) (8%) were isolated from Rs. 10 and Rs. 50 (1 each); and anaerobic spore-bearing bacteria (9%) and nonhemolytic streptococci (4%) [Table 1] were isolated from all the 12 currency notes of denominations Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100. Bacteria isolated from hospital and open market area were pathogenic. Intergroup comparison statistical analysis [Table 1] carried out using the Chi-square test was found to be statistically significant (P < 0.05).
Table 1: Potential pathogenic bacteria on currency notes of denominations Rs. 10, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100 (four each) from the open market group and hospital group

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  Discussion Top

The isolation of bacteria from currency as demonstrated by our study shows that currency could play an important role in the transmission of microbial agents in the community and thus presents a public health threat. Hundred percent of the notes analyzed were found to be contaminated. Currency notes of lower denominations (Rs. 10 and Rs. 50) were the most contaminated, and this is consistent with previous studies.[8],[11],[12] This is expected, as lower denomination notes pass through more hands than the higher denomination. Contamination of currency in our study was found to be higher than reported in currencies in other developing countries such as Nigeria (52.5%)[13] and Saudi Arabia (72.3%)[14] but lower than 100% recently reported in Ghana.[15] In our study, currency notes obtained from open market area showed more of E. coli contamination (36%) than in the hospital group (25%), whereas S. aureus contamination was more in the hospital group (38%) than in open market (54%). The percentage of E. coli and S. aureus was more in lower denomination (Rs. 10) than the higher denominations (Rs. 50 and Rs. 100), which was not previously reported in literature. These differences reflect differences in hygienic practices and handling of currency in different areas and also show that microbial contamination of currency is a global problem. Several behavioral practices in our study site may contribute to currency contamination: keeping money underbody surfaces, improper washing of hands after using the toilet, wetting fingers with saliva when counting currency, coughing and sneezing on hands and handling currency, and placement or storage of money on dirty surfaces during transactions. Paper currency (notes) offers a large surface as breeding ground for microbes which can persist on it for longer periods. The surface of banknotes is not smooth but irregular facilitating adherence by many different types of microbes. Nasal colonization with community-acquired MRSA is increasingly reported in places where school children are in close contact with reduced hygienic places.[16] Pathogens of fecal, nose or throat, and skin origin are most likely to be transmitted by the hands, highlighting the need for effective hand hygiene and other barriers to pathogen contamination, such as no bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food. E. coli and  Salmonella More Details species have marked importance in foodborne diseases and the worldwide emergence of resistant or multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria.[17],[18]

The staphylococci (coagulase negative and S. aureus) were the predominant isolates in currency from all sources [Table 1], an indication of their ubiquitous nature. Coagulase-negative staphylococci have long been regarded as nonpathogenic, but their important role as pathogens and their increasing incidence have been recognized and studied in recent years. S. aureus are well-recognized pathogens. Kumar JD et al.[19] have shown that S. aureus can survive on paper notes for 8 days. Prolonged survival of this pathogen on currency permits transmission. These organisms are found in the normal flora[10] samples analyzed. E. coli were widely distributed in various denominations of currency notes collected from both the hospital and open market groups [Table 1] than the other organisms. Their detection in currency is indicative of fecal contamination and poor personal hygiene practices of currency handlers. Thus, simultaneous handling of money and food should be discouraged unless proper hygiene is observed or food handling tools are used between the two processes. The bacteria isolated from our study notes are in accordance with other studies (Bhat N et al., 2010;[8] Akoachere JF et al., 2014;[10] Tagoe D et al., 2009;[15] Uraku AJ et al., 2012;[20] and Gedik H et al., 2013),[21] suggesting that contamination is a common phenomenon. Further studies would be needed to establish the transmission of multidrug-resistant microorganisms through contact with circulating currency notes.

As the current study investigated the presence of microorganisms in lower denomination of currency notes in circulation, further research including all denominations including coins with higher sample size, places where money transactions happen at large, and more number of hospitals is to be included.

  Conclusion Top

This study concludes that the currency notes collected from hospitals and open markets were contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. The currency notes collected from hospitals were contaminated more with S. aureus than in the open market group. There is no direct evidence that the presence of microorganisms on currency results in infection, but still the strategies must be adopted to reduce the contamination of currency notes by introducing plastic currency instead of paper currency notes. Behavioral practices such as using saliva while counting currency notes that could predispose to infection should be discouraged, regular disinfection of currency notes deposited in the banks using ultraviolet light or even by fumigation. It is recommended to remove worn out or mutilated currency by concerned authorities as it can lead to contamination. It is also advised to wash hands in between handling of currency notes and food. Public education on proper handling and care of currency is advocated, in order to reduce currency contamination. Handling of currency notes between handwashing and food handling requires a repeat of the process of handwashing. Studies on the contamination of currency notes with pathogenic microorganisms are lacking in most of the developing countries. As the current study investigated the presence of microorganisms in lower denomination of currency notes in circulation, further research including all denominations with a higher sample size is recommended.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Pradeep NV, Anupama S, Marulasiddaiah BS, Chetana M, Gayathri P, Maduri SN. Microbial contamination of Indian currency notes in circulation. J Res Biol 2012;2:377-82.  Back to cited text no. 1
Uneke CJ. Potential for parasite and bacterial transmission by paper currency in Nigeria. J Environ Health 2007;69:54-60.  Back to cited text no. 2
Felgo P, Nkansah M. Bacterial load on Ghanaian currency notes. Afr J Microbiol 2010;4:2375-80.  Back to cited text no. 3
Alwakeel SS, Naseer AL. Bacterial and Fungal contamination of Saudi Arabian currency and cell phones. Asian J Biol Sci 2011;4:556-62.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hosen JM, Sarif DI, Rahman MM, Azad MA. Contamination of coliforms in different paper currency notes of Bangladesh. Pak J Biol Sci 2006;9:868-70.  Back to cited text no. 5
Prasai T, Yami DK, Joshi RD. Microbial load on paper/polymer currency and coins. Nepal J Sci Technol 2009;9:105-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ghamdi A, Abdelmalik S, Bamaga M, Azar E, Wakid M, Alsaid Z. Bacterial contamination of one Riyal paper notes. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2011;42:711-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Bhat N, Bhat S, Asawa K, Agarwal A. An assessment of oral health risk associated with handling of currency notes. Int J Dent Clin 2010;2:14-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
Angelakis E, Azhar EI, Bibi F, Yasir M, Al-Ghamdi AK, Ashshi AM, Elshemi AG, Raoult D. Paper money and coins as potential vectors of transmissible disease. Future Microbiol 2014;9:249-61.  Back to cited text no. 9
Akoachere J, Gaelle N, Dilonga H, Nkuo-Akenji D. Public health implications of contamination of Franc CFA (XAF) circulating in Buea (Cameroon) with drug resistant pathogens. BMC Res Notes 2014;7:1-13.  Back to cited text no. 10
Basavarajappa K, Rao P, Suresh K. Study of bacterial, fungal, and parasitic contaminaiton of currency notes in circulation. Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2005;48:278-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Igumbor E, Obi C, Bessong P, Potgieter N, Mkasi T. Microbiological analysis of banknotes circulating in the Venda region of Limpopo province, South Africa. S Afr J Sci 2007;103:9-10.  Back to cited text no. 12
Yazah AJ, Yusuf J, Agbo AJ. Bacterial contamination of Nigerian currency notes and associated risk factors. Res J Med Sci 2012;6:1-6.   Back to cited text no. 13
Suaad SA, Laila AN. Bacterial and fungal contamination of Saudi Arabian paper currency and cell phones. Asian J Biol Sci 2011;4:556-62.   Back to cited text no. 14
Tagoe DN, Adams L, Kangah VG. Antibiotic resistant bacteria contamination of the Ghanaian currency note: A potential health problem. J Microbiol Biotech Res 2011;1:37-44.   Back to cited text no. 15
Neel R. Capsular typing of coagulase positive (cops) community associated methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) isolated from anterior nares of school children from Lushoto, Korogwe, Muheza and Tanga districts in Tanzania. Pharmacophore 2012;3:117-22.   Back to cited text no. 16
Kalantari S, Sepehri G. Determination of bacterial contamination isolated from Sandwiches in Kerman City and their resistance to commonly used antimicrobials. Arch Applied Sci Res 2012;4:1100-5.   Back to cited text no. 17
Sharma S, Sumbali G. Contaminated money in circulation: A review. Int J Recent Sci Res 2014;5:1533-40.  Back to cited text no. 18
Kumar JD, Negi YK, Gaur A, Khanna D. Detection of virulence genes in Staphylococcus aureus isolated from paper currency. Int J Infect Dis 2009;13:e450-5.   Back to cited text no. 19
Uraku J, Obaji I, Nworie B. Potential risk of handling Nigerian currency notes. Int J Adv Biol Res 2012;2:228-33.   Back to cited text no. 20
Gedik H, Voss TA, Voss A. Money and transmission of bacteria. Antimicrob Resist Infect Control 2013;2:22.  Back to cited text no. 21


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