Ribosomal DNA (rDNA) identification of the culturable bacterial flora on monetary coinage from 17 currencies

J Environ Health. 2005 Mar;67(7):51-5.


The aim of the investigation reported in this paper was to identify the bacterial microflora on monetary coinage from 17 countries by employment of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) sequenced-based molecular identification of rDNA from bacterial cultures. Silver, bronze, and other alloy coins (approximately 300 g) from 17 currencies were enriched individually by aerobic culturing in tryptone soya broth for 72 hours at 30 degrees C. Next, 20 microL of broth was inoculated onto Columbia blood agar supplemented with 5 percent volume-pervolume (v/v) defibrinated horse blood for 72 hours at 30 degrees C, and resulting colonies were purified by further subculture, as detailed above, for a further 72 hours. All colonies were identified by initial PCR amplification of a partial region of the 16S rDNA gene locus, which was then sequenced, and the sequence was aligned according to the BLASTn algorithm. Twenty-five isolates were obtained from the coinage; of these, 25 (100 percent) were Gram positive, and the most prevalent genus observed was Bacillus (B. megaterium, B. lentus, B. litoralis, B. subtilis, B. circulans and other Bacillus spp.), which accounted for 10 of 25 isolates (40 percent) and was isolated from 10 of 17 countries (58.8 percent). It was followed in prevalence by Staphylococcus spp. (Staph. aureus, Staph. epidermidis, Staph. hominis, Staph. schleiferi), which accounted for 7 of 25 isolates (28 percent) and were isolated from 7 of 17 countries (41.2 percent). Given the organisms identified in this study, it is not believed that monetary coinage presents any particular risk to public health. The authors support the principles of basic hygiene, however, in terms of proper handwashing and the avoidance of handling money when working with food or dressing wounds and skin lesions, In conclusion, the study demonstrated that money from 17 countries was contaminated by environmental Gram-positive flora, in particular Bacillus spp., and that the universal 16S rDNA-PCR approach coupled with automated direct sequencing provides a rapid means of identifying the contaminant organisms present.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Numismatics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Public Health
  • Risk Assessment


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal