ATM is like a daily trip nowadays. But be careful the next time you visit the nearby automated teller machine (ATM), as the keypad may be loaded with bacterias from spoiled food to parasites that may also cause sexually transmitted disease (STDs), researchers say.
Bacteria found on human skin. Microbes from bony fish, mollusks, chicken and baked goods. These are part of the long list of life-forms that live on the surfaces of ATM keypads in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, according to a new analysis.
ATM keypads represent a specific and unexplored micro habitat for microbial communities. “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 Jane Carlton, Professor at New York University, US.
“DNA obtained from ATM keypads may therefore provide a record of both human behavior and environmental sources of microbes,” Carlton added.
The study was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s open access journal mSphere. It is one of a number of fascinating research projects in recent years to catalog and understand the microbes that live among, on or inside us and how they impact human health. Last year, scientists explained how each person is surrounded by a cloud of bacteria that follows you wherever you go and is as unique and identifiable as a fingerprint. And this summer, they detailed the inhabitants of the subterranean world of Boston’s subway, known as “the T” — not anthrax or plague, thankfully, but lots of other scary things.
The researchers led by biologist Jane M. Carlton, in June and July 2014 took swabs of keypad from 66 ATM machines from eight New York city neighborhood. Specifically, the most common identified sources of microbes on the keypads were from household surfaces such as televisions, restrooms, kitchens and pillows. Residual DNA from a meal may remain on a person’s hand and be transferred to the ATM keypad upon use.
The traces varied a bit by neighborhood. On keypads in Central Harlem South, researcher found a marker for chicken. In Asian neighborhoods like Flushing and Chinatown, they found microbes from bony fish and mollusks. And in midtown Manhattan and other predominantly white neighborhoods, they found Xeromyces bisporus, a foodborne mold that researchers said is associated with spoiled baked goods. This bacteria was originally “isolated from licorice and associated with spoilage of high-sugar foods such as cakes and confectioneries.”