What lives on your local ATM keypad may shock you

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Although harmless, the bacteria and microbes give an interesting insight into the habits of New Yorkers.

When you go to get your cash out at the nearest ATM, the last thing on your mind is how many different types of bacteria and microbes are lurking on the keypad.

But scientists have examined ATMs in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and discovered an array of different life forms including bacteria from human skin, and microbes from bony fish to baked goods.

The study was part of many research projects looking into the different microbes living around us and impacting our health. Led by Jane Carlton, director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at NYU, the team took swab samples of 66 keypads located in and around New York City during summer 2014. DNA sequencing was then used to determine what the samples consisted of and believed to show an average cross reference of microbes transferred by hundreds of people.

“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,” explained Carlton.

According to a report in Fox News, ATMs located in midtown Manhattan had high levels of mold associated with high-sugared baked goods such as cakes and confectionaries.

“It seems plausible that this fungus had been transferred from people who had 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,” the study explains.

The majority of the microbes found were from unknown sources, however many were identified from humans including specific bacteria linked to the ears, nose and even feces.

But if the thought of heading to the ATM has left you feeling sick, the good news is the researchers stress that although disgusting, these microbes are entirely harmless. The study gives a great snapshot into the habits of New Yorkers.

Details of the study were published in the journal mSphere.

Daniel J. Brown

Daniel J. Brown (Editor-in-Chief) is a recently retired data analyst who gets a kick out of reading and writing the news. He enjoys good music, great food, and sports, with a slant towards Southern college football, basketball and professional baseball.

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