Friday 18 April 2014

Filthy lucre

It would be invidious to entitle this brudne złoty as if the Poles were the only nation that didn't wash hands between toilet and shop.  Nevertheless a group of microbiologists from Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin have found significant levels of fecal coliform contamination on coins and bank-notes.  Strangely enough, rather fewer are found on high denomination notes which suggests that if you have two beans to rub together you wash your hands more often - or have a servant to wipe your bottom.  These results are similar to those found in other countries like Saudi and India.  And don't imagine that money is cleaner in Ireland, Ukraine or Russia or wherever you're reading this.

But what to do with this information?  Wear gloves? That's probably not a good idea for the restaurant trade.  We are awash with microbes, 200 trillion of them being toted around about our person - mainly in our large intestine but also up our other orifices and in folds of skin.  Several weeks ago in my Yr1 cell biology class we were doing microbial counts before and after hand-washing.  At least half of the plates indicated more bacteria after washing hands than before; presumably because the soap had mobilised some Staphylococcus minding its own business in a crevice of the cuticle and smeared it over the finger-print.  I regaled the chaps with the fact that 30% of us have MRSA up our noses without ill-effect.

But the Polish study has given me an idea for a final year research project next year, although I can't see myself having €20 and €5 notes "aseptically placed into sterile tubes containing 10 ml of trypticase soy broth", although "The samples were collected at random in different cities from all over Poland from various locations including grocery store, markets, flower shops, bus stations, restaurants, and banks." sounds like a lot of fun.  The folding money is, unsurprisingly, more heavily contaminated not least because the copper which is found in almost all coins is toxic to microbes.

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