Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Could your credit card kill you?

Study: The plastic in credit cards can host, transmit diseases

Did you ever fleetingly rest your credit card between your lips during checkout because your hands were full or the kids were acting up? After reading this, you'll never do that again.

A new grant-based study, "Cash or Credit: Spreading the Wealth of Virulence Genes?" conducted by microbiology students at Florida's St. Petersburg College found that half of all credit cards sampled at local malls, stores and hospitals tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. Paper currency scored even worse on the hygiene scale; six in 10 dollar bills tested contained traces of MRSA.
Could your credit card kill you?
It's the first known study to confirm what biologists have long suspected: under the right circumstances, your credit card could kill you.

"If it has the right type of microbe with the right type of virulence factors in a person who is immuno-compromised, possibly so," says Shannon McQuaig, the associate professor of natural sciences who devised the study. 

You may have heard of MRSA, an aggressive form of staph bacteria discovered in 1961 that laughs off antibiotics, modern medicine's multipurpose magic bullet. MRSA is spread skin to skin or by contact with portals in the body (mouth, nose, open cuts, etc.). Once inside, MRSA microbes can spread to bones, joints, blood or any organ, including the heart, lungs and brain.

"The problem is, they are antibiotic-resistant, so once an infection is established, you have to use some pretty strong drugs that have some toxicity associated with them to get rid of it," says McQuaig. "If MRSA is introduced, say through a contaminated credit card touching a cut on the skin, that can lead to a subcutaneous infection that tends to abscess and has to be cut open and drained."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have declared MRSA an epidemic. While hospitals are making progress containing the bug in clinic settings, MRSA continues to threaten the public, notably among high-risk groups: children in day care, athletes who share towels, members of the military and people who sport tattoos. CDC spokeswoman Melissa Dankel calls credit cards a natural fomite, the medical term for an inanimate object that can transmit disease.

If MRSA is introduced, say through a contaminated credit card touching a cut on the skin, that can lead to a subcutaneous infection that tends to abscess and has to be cut open and drained.
-- Shannon McQuaig
Associate professor, St. Petersburg College
"MRSA can survive for months" says Dankel. "They don't reproduce or grow but they can stay alive on plastic, as can other staph infections or enteric bacteria such as E. coli. There's no telling what you might find on a credit card."
McQuaig says the widespread presence of MRSA is one reason cashiers, toll booth workers and TSA agents increasingly wear gloves on the job.

Lisa Holmes, a longtime vendor to the Department of Veterans Affairs, began her one-woman crusade against plastic fomites more than a decade ago after observing commonplace cross-contamination while making her rounds of VA hospitals.

"In one, the woman who registers veterans all day had lesions all over her hands from their plastic ID cards; she couldn't wear gloves because she couldn't type with them. In another, a lady caregiver was leaning over a patient with her badge touching his face, then turns and leans over another veteran and does the same thing. I said, 'whoa, we've got to fix this thing,'" she recalls.

Holmes became an industry representative with the American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES) and pursued a solution with the help of Thompson Research Group, a building materials pioneer. In 2006, she applied for a patent on antimicrobial plastic that would incorporate antibiotics into the raw plastic used to make credit, debit and ATM cards. But she didn't stop there; her germ-fighting patent also includes name badges, driver's licenses, hotel key cards, subway tokens and poker chips.

Holmes says she has received international interest in her antibiotic plastic. India has contacted her regarding its subway tokens and a proposed national health care card; Canada has expressed interest in it after converting to plastic currency; and Russians fancy germ-fighting poker chips. But are U.S. card companies beating down her door? Not so much.

Holmes approached a major U.S. credit card issuer about her product, but its lawyers responded by saying that would presume that something was wrong with the card. "I explained that nothing is wrong with the card as long as you don't remove it from the pristine envelope in which you sent it; then 'what's in your wallet' really takes on a whole new meaning."

Holmes says card companies and issuers alike seem to have higher priorities these days than the health of their cardholders. While the additional manufacturing cost would be inconsequential, in the industry's view, the idea of rolling out a new "cleaner" card just now would open a whole can of public relations worms best left unopened, she says.

There's one other obstacle as well: the antimicrobial card doesn't kill germs per se; it simply inhibits their growth.

Holmes insists she's on the right side of history and that one day her patent will be inside every purse and wallet in America.

"It's just a matter of getting a credit card company that is willing to develop it. They don't want to embrace it right now but once they do, everyone will want this thing," she says. "I'm hoping the plastic badges will catch on, too. You have to fix it all."

Could your credit card kill you? 
By  | Published: November 6, 2012
Antimicrobial Cards: A simple solution to controlling bacteria on your credit cards and ID badges! Information 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dishing the dirt on the germs: Credit Cards

The average person harbors 150 species of bacteria – so it’s no surprise our hands are often filthier than our toilet seats.

Some bacteria are harmless, some are even beneficial to our health, but others can cause serious illness. We touch some 300 different surfaces every half hour, then we touch our own faces around 18 times an hour. This makes it easy for germs to get into our mouths and noses, where they attack cells and make us feel unwell. Contact with everyday items such as the TV remote or light switches is thought to be the trigger for 65 per cent of colds, 50 per cent of diarrhoea cases and 50 to 80 per cent of food poisoning incidents.

A STUDY found 80 per cent of bank notes and 78 per cent of credit cards had traces of bacteria like rhino-virus. Dr Ron Cutler, of Queen Mary University of London, says: “We all handle money and credit cards but it is unlikely we wash our hands afterwards.”

BUG BUSTER: Don’t touch your face after handling cards or cash. Bacteria can enter your nose and mouth.

THE SUN (United Kingdom) Oct 18, 2012

Germy credit cards like a 'dirty toilet bowl': study

Monday, October 15 was Global Handwashing Day, but a new study suggests maybe it's more than your hands you'll want to wash. UK researchers have found that one in 10 bank cards and one in seven bills were found to be contaminated with fecal matter.
Announced Monday, the study is the latest to be carried out by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, alerting us to the fact we live in a cesspool of filth. The research team did get backing from Radox Handwash soap products, but nonetheless, the results do supply your gross-out du jour
The team took bacterial samples from hands, credit cards, and currency in various formats from cities in the UK, including London, Birmingham, and Liverpool. Findings revealed that more than a quarter of hands sampled showed traces of E. coli.
Also, 11 percent of hands, eight percent of cards, and six percent of bank notes showed "gross contamination - where the levels of bacteria detected were equal to that you would expect to find in a dirty toilet bowl," claims a press release.
Rather than bathing your money in a bucket of bleach, the solution is to simply wash your hands, frequently with soap and water. "If you eat or drink something without washing your hands, or if you touch your own nose, mouth, or eyes after shaking someone's hand, you can introduce whatever germ was on their hand, and now your hand, into the portals of your body," said Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Medical Center, in an interview with health website WebMD.
You can also lightly wipe down your credit cards with a sanitizer, advises Money Blue Book website. While the idea of touching fecal matter isn't pleasing, credit cards can harbor flu bugs during peak seasons, so it's not a bad idea to keep each housed in its own plastic case in your wallet so it doesn't touch other cards or any money.

Sanitize your hands and your credit cards often

With flu season gearing up and reminders about washing hands often, a new study has found there are even more sources where germs can thrive it turns out credit cards are an unlikely source of bacteria, according to a study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London.
Researchers found that one in 10 credit cards were contaminated with fecal organisms.

The study was done to raise awareness of Global Handwashing Day, which highlights the importance of washing your hands with soap before eating and after using the bathroom.
Money Blue Book lists the five biggest reasons credit cards can carry germs:
  • Flu germs remain alive on surfaces
  • Germs thrive in conditions where you keep your credit cards - dark, warm, slightly moist places
  • Being too casual about where you're placing your credit cards
  • Many people touch the credit card
  • Credit cards touch other germ-laden objects
Money Blue Book recommends keeping yourself safe this flu season, by sanitizing your hands often, wiping credit cards down with sanitizer, avoiding the use of communal pens, keeping your hands away from your face and keeping credit cards in individual plastic cases.

WTOP | Sunday - 10/21/2012, 11:02am  ET

Monday, October 22, 2012

MRSA found on 80 percent of dollar bills according to SPC study

A St. Petersburg College biological sciences professor and some of her students set out to discover how much, if any, “bad bacteria” is found on frequently handled fomites like paper money and credit cards. The preliminary findings from the study titled, “"Cash or Credit: Spreading the Wealth of Virulence Genes?", were released Monday.
Shannon McQuaig, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Natural Sciences at St. Petersburg College spoke to the Infectious Disease Examiner Monday about the study and their preliminary findings.
Dr. McQuaig and her students tested paper money and plastic currency for this “bad bacteria” using molecular techniques looking for various antibiotic resistance and virulence-associated genes.
What they found was the high prevalence of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) on both the paper money and the plastic credit cards.
McQuaig said of the “non-hospital” (malls, fast food restaurants, gas stations, etc.) dollar bills tested, approximately 80 percent of the cash tested had MRSA on it. This compared to just 20 percent of the “hospital” cash (health care workers for example).
When asked about whether she was surprised by this finding, because the health care setting are a well-known source for MRSA, Dr. McQuaig responded, “Initially, I expected hospital-associated dollar bills would harbor the highest percentage of MRSA; however, after observing the lower percentage I did a little research into the matter and found a few things that may be contributing to the lower percentage.
“First, hospitals have advertised hand-washing/hand-sanitizing practices with flyers in bathrooms and on walls throughout the lobby, which increases awareness. Second, hospital bathrooms tend to use soap containing triclosan, while some organisms have developed resistance to triclosan; however, MRSA is still sensitive to this antimicrobial chemical. Third, according to the CDC hospital-associated MRSA infections have actually been decreasing over the past few years while community-acquired MRSA infections have been increasing.”
In addition, McQuaig and her students reported that 50 percent of the credit cards tested also tested positive for MRSA.
Being a higher percentage than expected, Dr. McQuaig told that credit cards are less porous and many sources have suggested the switch to plastic currency because of decreased contamination.
“I believe there has been a general trend to use plastic currency more frequently, as a simple convenience (I hardly ever carry cash), but as it is used more frequently it is exposed to more hands and thus possibly more contamination.
“Although, on average, credit cards are still not handled as much as dollar bills. Volunteers in this study estimated using them from once per month to 10-20 times per week”, she notes.
The study was paid for by a grant from The Foundation at St. Petersburg College. The goal of the Foundation is to provide student enrichment and faculty professional development.
Dr. McQuaig says once the study is complete, they plan to publish the data in a peer reviewed journal.
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium found colonizing (without causing infection) the skin and nose in one quarter to one third of people.
Methicillin –resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a highly resistant type, in which beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillins and cephalosporins) are ineffective in treatment.
What was once restricted to hospital infections, MRSA is becoming increasingly common in community acquired infections.
MRSA is primarily spread person to person via close skin contact, through cuts and abrasions and poor hygiene.

A simple solution to controlling bacteria on your credit cards and ID badges! Information about how germs and microbes remain on the surface or your cards or employee badges.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Five common objects dirtier than a toilet seat

The household toilet seat may be widely considered a bacterial breeding ground but there are many other seemingly benign everyday objects that are far dirtier and pose a greater health risk.
Last week scientists at the University of Arizona found that mobile phones had more germs on them than toilet seats, because phones regularly come into close contact with users' hands and mouths and are rarely cleaned. But that’s not the only filthy thing you might have your hands on right now — here are a few more reasons to avoid touching anything.
Cash and credit cards
Obvious one here — the wads of cash in your wallet carry more germs than the average toilet seat, with some harboring E coli.
Dr Ron Cutler, senior lecturer at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London, analysed 200 bank notes and 45 credit cards and discovered that 26 percent of the notes and 47 percent of the cards had high levels of bacteria. "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," Dr Cutler said.
Cutting boards

A dirty chopping board. (Getty)
A number of bacteria hotspots are found in kitchens or anywhere that food is prepared, according to Associate Professor David Gordon of the Australian National University's Research School of Biology.
"Plastic cutting boards are another common breeding ground for bacteria," he told ninemsn.
Assoc Professor Gordon said wood cutting boards were perceived to be better than plastic because they are made from a natural product but both were usually rife with germs.
"They are hard to clean because they tend to be scoured by knife cuts and they make good places for bacteria to be lodged," he said.

A filthy sponge in action. (Getty)
Sponges are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria as they offer the perfect conditions for germs to multiply.
"A lot of things that live in a gut or host need a moist environment to survive. Dry things are low risk," Assoc. Professor Gordon said.
"Things like sponges, in terms of levels of contamination, are likely to have bacteria that potentially could cause disease in people.
"You get things like E coli and salmonella in them."
He said tea towels pose a similar risk but sponges were a greater threat because they were usually moist.
Keyboards and steering wheels

A heavily thrashed keyboard and mouse. (Getty)
Car steering wheels and computer keyboards are objects that are handled a number of times a day, possibly by more than one person and are rarely cleaned.
Sometimes the dirt that builds up on them can be visible but before it gets to that stage there is already a hive of microbial activity unfolding.
A study undertaken by Queen Mary University found 700 harmful bacteria per square inch on the average steering wheel, compare to 80 found on the average toilet.
"They contain bacteria but whether you can get something from them that poses a health risk is unlikely," Assoc. Professor Gordon said.
"They are usually a fairly non porous surface that dries out and the bacteria that live there may be things we have on our skin naturally anyway.
Bathroom mats 
A bacterial breeding ground. (Getty)
Lisa from The Simpsons once said that her mother's heart "won't just wipe clean like this bathroom countertop: it absorbs everything that touches it, like this bathroom rug."
Bathroom mats are a common bacterial breeding ground absorbing a number of harmful germs including fecal matter.
Fortunately most people, except perhaps small children, are unlikely to come into dangerous contact with them.
"There may be bacteria living there but they probably don’t come into contact with anybody," Assoc. Professor Gordon said.
Source: Associate Professor David Gordon, Queen Mary University, University of ArizonaAuthor: Martin Zavan. Approving editor: Henri Paget. |  13:00 AEST Wed Sep 5 2012Web:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Germs in your wallet can make you sick - tests prove it

Bio-Clean director Peter Guerin, conducted tests that show just how dirty money can be.
Peter GuerinGerms on money may be making unwary people sick - some notes are more than six times filthier than a public lavatory.

But don't think swapping it for plastic will magically make the germs disappear.
A Public Defender investigation of 10 Melbourne Australia shoppers' wallets found cash and credit cards could be potential hotbeds for bacteria.
In the worst example, a $10 note recorded a contamination count of 63,556 - that's 6.4 times higher than the average count from similar tests on public lavatory seats throughout the city.
A reading below 500 is considered acceptable.
Credit and debit cards were generally cleaner, but one recorded a count almost double a toilet. Mobile phones swabbed also returned worrying results.
Bio-Clean director Peter Guerin, who conducted the tests, said bacteria such as staphylococcus and E.coli, which can cause severe diarrhea, were likely dangers. "You've got a lot of live cells sitting on an inanimate surface," Mr Guerin said.
Werribee's Sharon Rowling, one of the shoppers to have her items tested, said the results were a shock. "That is where we get all these bugs," she said.
Public Defender gauged the number of living organisms on each surface using a lumitester, a quick way to check general cleanliness.
RMIT food science senior lecturer Dr. Bee May said food and money should never be double-handled, a mistake hospitality staff often made. Ideally a separate staff member should handle cash, she said.
"They have to treat money as a raw food, basically, and ensure there is no cross-contamination." Regular hand washing is the simplest way to avoid germs.
Germs in your wallet can make you sick - tests prove it 

By Wes Hosking Herald Sun March 26, 2012

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