Banknotes can carry more germs than the average toilet seat, with some harbouring E.coli, an expert said today.
Dr Ron Cutler, senior lecturer at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, analysed 200 notes and 45 credit cards and discovered that 26 per cent of the notes and 47 per cent of the cards had high levels of bacteria.
He found E.coli on some notes, together with Staphylococcus aureus which is often carried by humans without causing any problems but can lead to infections.
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Overall, 80 per cent of notes and 78 per cent of credit cards tested had some traces of bacteria. Some were so high in contaminants they carried more germs than the average toilet seat.
Dr Cutler said: "Many people may be surprised to learn that bacteria is present on the majority of British banknotes.
"We all handle money and credit cards on a daily basis but it is unlikely that we wash our hands directly afterwards. Good hand hygiene at all times can help prevent the spread of infection."
The research was commissioned to mark the release of the film Contagion on DVD and digital download.