You may not think twice about punching in your number on the automated teller machine, but a new study may make you start.
Scientists have taken a close look at the automated teller machines (ATMs) that we use all the time, absent-mindedly punching in a PIN and receiving cash, and found something rather alarming: microbes from fish, chicken and baked goods found on the surfaces of keypads throughout New York City.
The findings were published in the American Society for Microbiology. In the course of their research, scientists collected a large variety of microbes and bacteria that make their way from human hands to the surfaces of ATM keypads. It shows that there’s just no escaping the massive amount of bacteria that surrounds on a daily basis.
Scientists took swabs of 66 keypads in eight neighborhoods throughout New York in 2014 and determined what was in those samples with DNA sequencing, creating an average profile of microbes.
The DNA collected from ATM keypads may provide an interesting, in-depth look at typical human behavior from an unusual perspective. It also shows scientists some commons sources of microbes in the environment.
Household items like pillows and televisions tended to be the most common source of these microbes, researchers found.
“Our results suggest that ATM keypads integrate microbes from different sources, including the human microbiome, foods, and potentially novel environmental organisms adapted to air or surfaces,” said senior study author Jane M. Carlton, PhD, director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and professor of biology, at New York University. “DNA obtained from ATM keypads may therefore provide a record of both human behavior and environmental sources of microbes.”
“It seems plausible that this fungus may have been transferred from people who have recently handled baked goods, particularly in a commuter-heavy area such as Midtown Manhattan where there are many nearby convenience stores and cafés selling this type of food product to business workers,” Carlton said.