Dirty money test results reveal some surprises - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Dirty money test results reveal some surprises


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – There have been a number of scientific studies recently, focusing on whether viruses can survive on money.  If so, for how long?  And can the infection spread?

WLOX conducted our own tests, with help from several businesses and agencies.  A week ago, the Peoples Bank in Biloxi loaned us some money for this experiment.

"Oh yes, worrying about what's on those bills," said Jeannette Romero, Sr. Vice-President of Operations.  "They have lots of dirt I'm sure. But mostly, lots of germs."

Bank teller Sandy Mitchell winced and said, "I can just imagine what's on it."

Three bank bills, along with a dollar bill from an Ocean Springs convenience store were tested. We also took a culture from a bill that the Jackson County Sheriff's Department seized from a suspected drug dealer.

Briana Royals, a Medical Lab Tech at Grace Heath Care in Gulfport, gave us the findings.

"The only bill that tested positive for anything, that grew anything out in culture, was the $5 from the bank.  That grew out gram positive Cocci, which is a type of bacteria," Royals said.  "I can't give you the genus and species. We didn't identify that.  But normally, the bacteria that lives on our skin, those are gram positive Cocci.  Those are not usually harmful, unless they get into like an open wound or an area of the body where they're not supposed to be.  Then they can cause an infection."

What about signs of any viruses or drug residue?

"We didn't test for viruses.  They have a limited life span on inanimate objects. The drug test was inconclusive.  It didn't show anything," she said. "I really expected to see more of the bills showing results.  But yeah, it was fairly shocking. I figured money was dirtier than that."

"Staph is everywhere," said Dr. Robert Travnicek with the State Department of Health.

Travnicek wasn't surprised by the findings at all.

"Some of the stuff that I read said there were millions routinely, millions of bacteria on every dollar bill.  And that's the way I've always assumed it.  But I assumed there's millions of bacteria on my desk top," said Travnicek.

He pointed to recent research on money that came about because of the flu outbreak.

"They did find Influenza virus that would live on coins for about 30 minutes in the study, and whether or not that virus could actually make you sick, that's an issue," he said.

Travnicek said he knows of no outbreaks of illnesses related to money. 

"I don't really think money is dangerous, and the reason I say that is because everybody seems to be after it," said Travnicek. "If it was so dangerous for you, why would everybody want money?"

Back at the bank, we got a very different reaction when we showed the test results to the tellers.    

"Oh wow!" Romero exclaimed.

"That's amazing!" said Mitchell.

"I would have thought there would have been a lot more germs on bills, because there are so many hands they pass through," said Romero.

So there's a good chance, you can pass the bucks without giving someone the bug.

"I was waiting for like all kinds of flu viruses to be on it, and so it's nice to know I don't have to go home and sterilize my hands at the end of the day," said Mitchell.

"Then again, money is dirty," said Romero.  "You should take precautions. Wash your hands after you're fooling with money and everybody will be well."

It's always wise to wash your hands after handling suspicious looking money.  Remember, we only tested five bills and the tests were very basic.  So based on our findings, the only thing you should worry about money, is not having enough of it.

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