Recent research has found that Automated Teller Machines are covered in microbes similar to those found in bathrooms and pillowcases. Therefore whenever you withdraw money from an ATM, you will be receiving money and an extra combination of microorganisms.

This news certainly could be a little gross; however, it is not so shocking since most of us know that germs and microbes are present everywhere, from a subway seat to our own toothbrush. It is practically impossible to avoid them, let alone as we press the keypads that everybody uses as well.

ATM Machine, card
“A record of both human behavior and environmental sources” were the words used by the scientists to describe the ATM bacteria. Image credit:

ATMs reflect the DNA of the city

All of us use ATMs. It is simple, and necessary for a city dweller. That is why researchers have focused on these machines to know a little bit more about the city’s DNA. And what city could be as diverse as New York City?

Researchers in New York City studied the keypads of 66 ATMs installed in banks, grocery stores, bodegas and other places all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

According to Dr. Jane Carlton, an urban microbiology ecologist from New York University and lead author of the study, ATMs act like miniature laboratories where they can study the DNA of the city. These devices host a unique microcosm on their keypads, which is a reflection of the people who use them on a daily basis.

The touch-screen ATMs were not analyzed this time. The study was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s open access journal Sphere last Wednesday.

There is no need to alarm: ATM microbes are practically harmless 

Researchers found out that ATMs are covered with tons of microbes. The good news is that they are mostly harmless. These germs come mainly from human skin. We go leaving a little part of ourselves as we withdraw money by touching the keypads.

Last year, scientists stated that every single one of us is surrounded by a “cloud of bacteria” that accompany us wherever we go and that it could identify us just as our own fingerprints do.

Researchers discovered that we leave leftovers on the ATM’s keypads. Traces of chicken, mollusks, fish and other goods were found too. In Manhattan, the leftovers were certainly an echo to the usual diet of a New Yorker. They found a mold called Xeromyces bisporus, which is associated with spoiled cakes and other baked goods.

The study is part of a larger research project to investigate New York City’s urban microbiome. They have already made a research on the New York Subway System, which is a great tool to have a perception of people from all around the city. They are now planning to analyze pets and pests in the city, including dogs, squirrels, rats, and cockroaches.

“New Yorkers love their food, it’s not that surprising,” said Carlton. She also said that the ATM findings were “just another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of microbes in New York City.”

Source: The New York Times