Researchers from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Biology at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), have warned the public to avoid counting money with saliva.
They found species of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); a group of bacteria responsible for diseases ranging from boils to pneumonia on the notes.
Staphylococcus aureus or “Staph” is a type of bacteria commonly found on people’s skin and nose. Staph bacteria are usually harmless, but they can cause serious infections that can lead to death especially in people with weakened immune systems.
“Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes staph infection that is difficult to treat because of resistance to key antibiotics. Staph infection, including those caused by MRSA, can spread in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and especially every part of the community, and has therefore become a public health concern.
According to Dr. Linda Aurelia Ofori, the lead researcher, the research sought to find the frequency of MRSA on circulating currency notes in the Kumasi metropolis. “Currency notes become easily dirty a few months after they are released. We wanted to have a look at what these currency notes are carrying,”, she explains.
For the study, the researchers obtained 120 banknotes from 10 units, and analysed them in the laboratory. “We tried putting the money in clusters. All monies from commercial drivers in one group, those serving raw meat and fish in one cluster, public toilets, etc. Each note in each cluster was treated as a unit so that we don’t influence the type and number of bacteria we find on one by another, and we used the Bank of Ghana mint notes as control,” she added.
The full study yet to be published, found six MRSA strains out of the 17-coagulase positive Staph on all notes collected and showing resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics such as cefoxitin. Interestingly, higher loads of the bacteria were identified among lower denominations.
Dr. Linda advises traders specially to desist from counting money using saliva. She says keeping money clean and dry and disinfecting the hands are likely to ward off these infections. “Microorganisms generally love moisture, thus, counting money with saliva is not a good practice’’, she stressed.
She urged the public to always keep money well in dry places to ensure that these organisms do not grow on them and find a way of constantly washing and disinfecting our hands when we handle money.
She therefore called on the Bank of Ghana to find ways of disinfecting old and dirty notes before re-circulating.