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Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City

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ABSTRACT

Background: Paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact with—and potential exchange of—microbes. In this pilot study, we swabbed circulating $1 bills obtained from a New York City bank in February (Winter) and June (Summer) 2013 and used shotgun metagenomic sequencing to profile the communities found on their surface. Using basic culture conditions, we also tested whether viable microbes could be recovered from bills.

Results: Shotgun metagenomics identified eukaryotes as the most abundant sequences on money, followed by bacteria, viruses and archaea. Eukaryotic assemblages were dominated by human, other metazoan and fungal taxa. The currency investigated harbored a diverse microbial population that was dominated by human skin and oral commensals, including Propionibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Micrococcus luteus. Other taxa detected not associated with humans included Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, microbes typically associated with dairy production and fermentation. Culturing results indicated that viable microbes can be isolated from paper currency.

Conclusions: We conducted the first metagenomic characterization of the surface of paper money in the United States, establishing a baseline for microbes found on $1 bills circulating in New York City. Our results suggest that money amalgamates DNA from sources inhabiting the human microbiome, food, and other environmental inputs, some of which can be recovered as viable organisms. These monetary communities may be maintained through contact with human skin, and DNA obtained from money may provide a record of human behavior and health. Understanding these microbial profiles is especially relevant to public health as money could potentially mediate interpersonal transfer of microbes.

No MeSH data available.


Relative abundance at the phylum and species level of bacterial taxa identified in the Winter and Summer 2013 datasets.Relative abundance of the top 15 bacterial taxa at the species level for (A) Winter and (B) Summer. The color of each species corresponds to its respective phylum. Those species marked with a ** indicate species present in the most abundant of both time points.
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pone.0175527.g004: Relative abundance at the phylum and species level of bacterial taxa identified in the Winter and Summer 2013 datasets.Relative abundance of the top 15 bacterial taxa at the species level for (A) Winter and (B) Summer. The color of each species corresponds to its respective phylum. Those species marked with a ** indicate species present in the most abundant of both time points.

Mentions: Similar bacteria dominated the two time points, including eleven of the most abundant bacterial species (Fig 4). The most abundant bacterial species in both datasets was Propionibacterium acnes, one of the most common among the skin microbial community; however, it was much more abundant in Summer (83%) than in Winter (51%). Other human-associated taxa among the most abundant species at both time points include a common skin bacterium, Staphylococcus epidermis; several oral taxa such as Micrococcus luteus, Streptococcus oralis and Rothia (R. mucilaginosa, dentocariosa) [32]; gut and oral commensal Veillonella parvula [33]; vaginally associated Corynebacterium aurimucosum [34]; and Acinetobacter baumannii, an opportunistic human pathogen [35]. Highly abundant taxa in both time points not directly associated with humans include Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, microbes typically associated with dairy production and fermentation [36]. The majority of the other abundant bacteria at both time points are common skin and oral flora. Exceptions to this include Gardnerella vaginalis, found only in the most abundant taxa of Winter (Fig 4A), and Xanthomonas campestris, a bacterial plant pathogen that is also used to produce xanthan gum, found only in Summer [37] (Fig 4B).


Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City
Relative abundance at the phylum and species level of bacterial taxa identified in the Winter and Summer 2013 datasets.Relative abundance of the top 15 bacterial taxa at the species level for (A) Winter and (B) Summer. The color of each species corresponds to its respective phylum. Those species marked with a ** indicate species present in the most abundant of both time points.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5383295&req=5

pone.0175527.g004: Relative abundance at the phylum and species level of bacterial taxa identified in the Winter and Summer 2013 datasets.Relative abundance of the top 15 bacterial taxa at the species level for (A) Winter and (B) Summer. The color of each species corresponds to its respective phylum. Those species marked with a ** indicate species present in the most abundant of both time points.
Mentions: Similar bacteria dominated the two time points, including eleven of the most abundant bacterial species (Fig 4). The most abundant bacterial species in both datasets was Propionibacterium acnes, one of the most common among the skin microbial community; however, it was much more abundant in Summer (83%) than in Winter (51%). Other human-associated taxa among the most abundant species at both time points include a common skin bacterium, Staphylococcus epidermis; several oral taxa such as Micrococcus luteus, Streptococcus oralis and Rothia (R. mucilaginosa, dentocariosa) [32]; gut and oral commensal Veillonella parvula [33]; vaginally associated Corynebacterium aurimucosum [34]; and Acinetobacter baumannii, an opportunistic human pathogen [35]. Highly abundant taxa in both time points not directly associated with humans include Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, microbes typically associated with dairy production and fermentation [36]. The majority of the other abundant bacteria at both time points are common skin and oral flora. Exceptions to this include Gardnerella vaginalis, found only in the most abundant taxa of Winter (Fig 4A), and Xanthomonas campestris, a bacterial plant pathogen that is also used to produce xanthan gum, found only in Summer [37] (Fig 4B).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Background: Paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact with—and potential exchange of—microbes. In this pilot study, we swabbed circulating $1 bills obtained from a New York City bank in February (Winter) and June (Summer) 2013 and used shotgun metagenomic sequencing to profile the communities found on their surface. Using basic culture conditions, we also tested whether viable microbes could be recovered from bills.

Results: Shotgun metagenomics identified eukaryotes as the most abundant sequences on money, followed by bacteria, viruses and archaea. Eukaryotic assemblages were dominated by human, other metazoan and fungal taxa. The currency investigated harbored a diverse microbial population that was dominated by human skin and oral commensals, including Propionibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Micrococcus luteus. Other taxa detected not associated with humans included Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, microbes typically associated with dairy production and fermentation. Culturing results indicated that viable microbes can be isolated from paper currency.

Conclusions: We conducted the first metagenomic characterization of the surface of paper money in the United States, establishing a baseline for microbes found on $1 bills circulating in New York City. Our results suggest that money amalgamates DNA from sources inhabiting the human microbiome, food, and other environmental inputs, some of which can be recovered as viable organisms. These monetary communities may be maintained through contact with human skin, and DNA obtained from money may provide a record of human behavior and health. Understanding these microbial profiles is especially relevant to public health as money could potentially mediate interpersonal transfer of microbes.

No MeSH data available.