Dr Frank Vriesekoop, a lecturer in food science at the University of Ballarat, conducted the research and found that there are generally very few pathogenic bacteria on banknotes and coins. He said, "The potential to spread disease is still there. But I don't think it's all as bad as it's made out." His research had been presented at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology annual conference in Adelaide yesterday.
The research, which was conducted over a year, had found low levels of common bacteria on the currency that were traded through various food outlets in Australia and New Zealand. The researchers had however explained that it would be impossible for them to cause diseases like diarrhoea, vomiting, or other gastric symptoms as usually believed, as their numbers were so insignificantly small.
Dr Frank Vriesekoop, explaining that the study proved that fears about currency hygiene were unwarranted said, There's been so much hype but, in fact, the chances of you picking something up from your cash are virtually non-existent."
His team of researchers had collected more than 800 coins and notes from places where shop assistants handled food and cash. They found in the subsequent tests that they conducted that on the 20 cents, 1$ coins, and 5$ & 20$ notes, they found the highly resistant spore bacillus, this causes gastroenteritis, and the opportunistic organism staphylococcus, commonly found on the skin.
They also found diarrhoea-causing E.coli, were seen present on some notes and salmonella bacteria on a few coins. They explained that the coins were probably far cleaner than the notes as it could be possible that certain organisms cannot survive on metal. The team also stated that the Australian currency was marginally cleaner than that of New Zealand.
Researchers also explained that hey found that credit cards had the same levels of bacteria as hard currency. Their research was being conducted as a part of an international study that is expected to prove that the polymer notes that are used in some parts of the world were far less prone to bacteria than paper notes. Dr Vriesekoop said that an initial study from the Middle East in particular has shown that their paper notes are extremely dirty.