Researchers are urging the general public to be careful ‘’the next time you visit the nearby automated teller machine (ATM)’’ as the keypad may be loaded with bacteria from spoiled food to parasites that may also cause sexually transmitted disease (STDs).
The experts are of the opinion that the ATM keypads represent a specific and unexplored microhabitat for microbial communities.
“Our results suggest that ATM keypads integrate microbes from different sources, including the human microbiome, foods, and potentially novel environmental organisms adapted to air or surfaces,” said Jane Carlton, Professor at New York University, US.
“DNA obtained from ATM keypads may, therefore provide a record of both human behaviour and environmental sources of microbes,” Carlton added.
Daily Mail gathered that the researchers – in June and July 2014 – took swab samples of keypads from 66 ATM machines from 8 neighbourhoods across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn in the United States.
The swabs, according to the researchers from New York University, revealed disturbing new insight on the unseen inhabitants of ATM keypads – which include skin microbes, traces of food, and potentially disease-causing parasites.
The researchers say most of these microbes stem from household surfaces, like restrooms, pillows, and even televisions, and represent a mix of human-associated and environmental sources.
The samples included sites in Midtown, Chinatown, Flushing, Central Harlem South, Marble Hill Inwood, South Ozone Park, West Brighton, and Kips Bay, with swabs from both indoor and outdoor machines.
Despite collecting from different areas, however, they found little diversity or geographic clustering among the samples, they explain in the paper published to mSphere.
Instead, the researchers found an array of microbes common to many of the sites, with an abundance of those associated with human skin communities.
This included bacteria from the classes Actinobacteria, Bacilli, Clostridia, Alphaproteobacteria, and Gammaproteobacteria – a class known to contain a number of pathogens, such as Salmonella.
And, they say, Alphaproteobacteria are commonly linked to urban transit system surfaces.
The researchers also noted a significant amount of fungal microbes, which represented the largest proportion in most samples.
In addition, the team found a parasite typically seen in the gut of humans and other mammals, along with a species closely related to the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, which can potentially cause the STD trichomoniasis.