Beware: Your ATM Machine Might Dispense Bacteria

Picture Showing Usage of ATM MachineIn India, after the Ban of Rs500 and Rs1000 currency notes, the Government has implemented many temporary rules
and restrictions for depositing, exchanging and withdrawing money. Because of the sudden changes, most of the time
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are completely queued up with lot of people wanting to withdraw money. This raised concerns about possible and potential health concerns over repeated use of ATM machines, i.e. through the keypads that are prone to vast human contact by multiple users. Few studies across the world in recent years have revealed that ATMs are unexplored microhabitat for microbial communities.Picture Showing Usage of ATM Window

A study published in the journal mSphere in November 2016 broadly assessed microbial communities associated with
ATM keypads across New York City, United States. In 2014, the researchers studied swabs of keypads from 66 ATM machines and found ATM keypads collect microbes from different sources, including the human microbiome, foods and potentially novel environmental organisms adapted to air or surfaces. The researchers suggested that residual DNA from a meal may remain on a person’s hands that can be transferred to the ATM keypad upon use. The most common sources of the microbes on ATM keypads appeared to be coming from household surfaces like televisions, restrooms, kitchens, and pillows. Note, majority of ATMs under study were sampled from indoor locations, and researchers found no significant difference in the keypads located outdoors.

Similar studies on ATMs in other parts of world have shown concerns likewise. In a study conducted in 2011 in Malatya City of Turkey, bacterial swab cultures from ATM devices found various bacteria. In a 2013 study in Ebonyi State of Nigeria, similar tests showed bacterial contamination and public health risk. All these studies reveal that ATMs are potential areas for pathogen accumulation, and they might have a role in microbial transmission in the community. More cause of concern; the results of the studies on ATM devices also suggest presence of parasites in some cases that may also cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The aforementioned health concerns with usage of ATMs suggest the need of hand washing after ATM usage and that ATM machines should be maintained clean so as to reduce microbial contamination and human transmission thereby.

Prashanth Damarla

I write.

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