http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/health/15real.html seems to indicate for a surface, to serve as a medium, the following properties are relevant

  • animation
  • humidity
  • temperature

The article however does not elaborate on the properties a surface must possess to serve as a medium - albeit i would figure it may vary from one virus/bacterium to another.

The same article also states

... when objects in a hotel room — light switches, telephones — were contaminated 
with a  cold virus, 60 percent of healthy volunteers picked up the virus when they 
touched one of the objects an hour later. Eighteen hours later, the transmission rate 
was cut in half.

When currency changes hands we rarely ever know whether it may , within a reasonable timespan, have passed through an agent/carrier.

Sir Dumpty loves to sneak off with a currency note to get me to chase him. He is protected; another member of his species may not be so protected. For that matter a person infected with, say, the common cold virus may have passed a note/coin/card to the vendor at the store within a minute of sneezing/coughing into his/her hand. What if the same person , instead, suffered from TB?

So ... can currency serve as a medium for transmission of pathogens?

  • $\begingroup$ It's going to vary wildly, for example Hepatitis B can survive 7 days outside of a host. Furthermore, some bacteria such as Bacillus antracis can produce endospores and survive for years. $\endgroup$
    – GWW
    Dec 19, 2012 at 3:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ its always a good idea to wash your hands when you handle money. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Dec 19, 2012 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ TB is perhaps a poor example as it is actually quite difficult to contract without spending extended time with someone actively infected. $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Dec 19, 2012 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Who the heck is Sir Dumpty? $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Jun 7, 2016 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @arboviral: That's my canine son $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


TB is an extremely poor example, because as has been mentioned, it usually requires prolonged contact.

But lets go with something with a low required infectious dose, that's friendly to surface contamination, and persists in the environment: Norovirus.

Can norovirus serve as a medium for pathogens? Absolutely. To be blunt, almost anything will serve as a medium for the right pathogen with some level of efficacy. This is a presentation from the New York Federal Reserve on what contaminates money, but given the outlandish things that can be contaminated with infectious material, there's no reason to suspect money isn't among them.

Wash your hands.

  • $\begingroup$ The same may be said for any of the pathogenic E. coli which can persist on surfaces (including plastic) for a day or two. $\endgroup$
    – user560
    Dec 20, 2012 at 5:53

Yes. Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli have all been isolated from paper money. There is a review article here on money (paper money and coins) as a source of infection but it's unfortunately behind a paywall.

Exactly how important money is as a source of infection and for which pathogens is more complex. As you note in your question, material will be important too, making answers to this question also relevant to the subject (although it hasn't been answered yet).


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