Bacterial Contamination of Indian Currency Notes (Rupee)

EK Elumalai, E David, J Hemachandran


Paper currency is used repeatedly in exchange for goods and services,1 and this is why the circulation of paper currency from one individual to another potentially spreads microorganisms. If these currencies are contaminated by pathogenic bacteria, the rate of infectious diseases will continue to rise.

Various microorganisms have been isolated from money worldwide including developed countries. Bacillus sp., and Staphylococcus aureus have been identified as common contaminants isolated from paper currency.2 However, other organisms like, Micrococcus sp., Corynebacterium sp., Vibrio cholerae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and members of the family Enterobacteriacea have been isolated from currency too. Pathogenic microbes like S. aureus, Escherichia coli, and Klebseilla, enterobacter have been isolated from the US coins and paper bills currencies.3 This study was aimed at isolating and identifying the level of contamination of the Indian currency notes by microbial pathogens and to identify the possible associated risk factors in the study area.

From February to March 2012, a total of 30 currency notes consisting of five notes of each of INR.5 and INR.10 denominations, was collected from three sources (i.e., public transport conductors, fish vendors, and vegetable vendors) in Vellore city, Tamilnadu, India. The currency notes were collected with hands covered with sterile plastic gloves and were placed immediately into sterile polythene bags and labeled accordingly. The samples were transported immediately to the laboratory for analysis.

All of the 30 notes studied were contaminated with bacteria. The culture from the collected Indian paper currency yielded 21 isolates representing eight different types of bacterial species viz E. coli, Proteus mirabilis, Vibrio sp., S. aureus, Pseuodomonas sp., Salmonella sp., Bacillus sp., and Klebsiella sp. We found common occurrence of some bacteria isolated from currency notes regardless of their sources; those included E. coli, Vibrio sp., S. aureus, and Pseuodomonas sp.; other isolates such as, P. mirabilis and Klebsiella sp. were found in a limited number of colonies.

In the present study, isolation of Gram positive as well as Gram negative bacteria from Indian currency notes confirmed that currency might be playing an important role, as a vector, in the transmission of pathogenic bacteria in the community. The pathogenic or potentially pathogenic bacteria found on these Indian currency notes, namely E. coli, S. aureus, Bacillus sp., Klebsiellab sp., Salmonella sp., Pseudomonas sp., P. mirabilis and Bacillus sp. may cause a wide variety of diseases from food poisoning, wound and skin infections, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems to life threatening diseases such as meningitis and septicemia.

Considering our findings, it seems that disinfection of currency in banks by ultraviolet light, supersonic and chemicals means, would decrease the risk of transmission of infection. Replacement of the traditional methods of trading with electronic money transactions would of course be another good solution for the problem.

Conflicts of Interest: None declared.



  1. Oyero OG, Emikpe BO. Preliminary investigation on the microbial contamination of Nigerian currency. Int J Trop Med 2007;2:29-32.
  2. Xu J, Moore JE, Millar BC. Ribosomal DNA (rDNA) identification of the culturable bacterial flora on monetary coinage from 17 currencies. J Env Heal 2005;67:51-5.
  3. Abrams BI, Waterman NG. Dirty money. JAMA 1972;219:1202-3.

Cite this article as: Elumalai EK, David E, Hemachandran J. Bacterial contamination of Indian currency notes (rupee). The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2012;3:204-205.

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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