Sunday, May 27, 2018
Human Interest

The State You're In: MRSA bacteria adds to dirty money

The other day, I handed $1.25 over to a Suncoast Parkway toll operator wearing filthy blue surgical gloves.

Was it ink from all the dollar bills she handled? Grime from coins sitting on the floorboard of someone's car?

Turns out, unless you clean toilets for a living, money is one of the nastiest things you'll touch in a given day. Tests have discovered everything from cocaine to Bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastics and known to cause health problems, on our greenbacks.

Now a small group of St. Petersburg College students and their teacher have added yet another frightening contaminant to the mix: MRSA, known scientifically as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

First discovered in 1961, MRSA is a staph bacteria that causes aggressive infections and laughs at most antibiotics.

Shannon McQuaig, associate professor of natural sciences at St. Petersburg College, obtained a $3,500 grant for the research. Her students have been collecting dollar bills and credit cards for the past few months and testing samples of bacterial DNA.

Germaphobes should stop reading here.

Of the more than 100 dollars collected so far, 60 percent tested positive for MRSA. About 50 percent of credit cards showed traces of MRSA.

Interestingly, the students collected half the bills from hospital settings, such as gift shops, hospital cafeterias and the like. The other half were gathered from convenience stores, pharmacies, department stores and restaurants.

"We thought hospitals would be the worst for MRSA," said McQuaig. "Turns out we weren't correct in our hypothesis."

Just 20 percent of the bills found at Pinellas County hospitals held traces of MRSA. But 80 percent of the bills found in the community tested positive.

Truth is, MRSA is commonly found on humans. But it's mostly those with weakened immune systems who will develop infections. The rest of us don't touch it enough for it to be a problem.

Care should be taken when handling cash and then touching an open wound. But MRSA is not the only money-borne risk factor out there. Remember the bills that made their way recently through the bowels of Arnie, the money-eating beagle in Largo?

Leonora LaPeter Anton, Times staff writer; Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Comments
Professional wrestlers are telling their stories through comic books

Professional wrestlers are telling their stories through comic books

Due to its salacious scripted story lines mixed with choreographed violence, professional wrestling is often referred to as a kind of soap opera. But Palm Harbor’s John Crowther sees it differently. Professional wrestling, he said, is a comic book st...
Published: 05/25/18
I went through 'Jeopardy!' auditions in Tampa, and I have a few questions

I went through 'Jeopardy!' auditions in Tampa, and I have a few questions

TAMPA — What’s it like to audition for Jeopardy!? What kind of questions are you asked? What realms of trivia must you master? How deep into your life should you expect producers to dig? Can you keep your cool with the buzzer in your han...
Published: 05/18/18
Police: T.I. arrested outside his gated community in Atlanta

Police: T.I. arrested outside his gated community in Atlanta

Rapper T.I. was arrested in Georgia while trying to enter the gated community where he lives without a key, according to reports.T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., was charged with public drunkenness, simple assault and disorderly conduct ...
Published: 05/16/18
Yanny or Laurel: What do you hear?

Yanny or Laurel: What do you hear?

The next great internet debate is upon us, but this one requires your ears instead of your eyes.Do you hear Laurel or Yanni?That’s the defining question for the internet today as a four-second Twitter post went viral, attracting the attention of peop...
Published: 05/16/18
Pauley Perrette claims she endured ‘multiple physical attacks’ on ‘NCIS’: ‘Nothing is worth your safety’

Pauley Perrette claims she endured ‘multiple physical attacks’ on ‘NCIS’: ‘Nothing is worth your safety’

Pauley Perrette left the long-running CBS forensic show NCIS after 15 seasons last week under what was originally presented as a professional decision. On Twitter, however, she told a different story."I refused to go low, that’s why I’ve never told p...
Published: 05/15/18