Bugs on our Bills (and dope)

The dirt and dope that’s on your cash

By Johanna Ohm  Chicago Tribune 6.22.17

We live in a dirty world. Wherever we go, we are among microbes. Bacteria, fungi and viruses live on our phones, bus seats, door handles and park benches. We pass these tiny organisms to each other when we share a handshake or a seat on the plane.
Now, researchers are finding we also share our microbes through our money. From tip jars to vending machines to the meter maid — each dollar, passed person to person, samples a bit of the environment it comes from, and passes those bits to the next person, the next place it goes.
The list of things found on our dollars includes DNA from our pets, traces of illegal drugs, and bacteria and viruses that cause disease.
The findings demonstrate how money can silently record human activities, leaving behind so-called “molecular echoes.”
What’s on a $1 bill?
In April, a new study identified more than 100 different strains of bacteria on dollar bills circulating in New York City. Some of the most common bugs on our bills included Propionibacterium acnes , a bacteria known to cause acne, and Streptococcus oralis , a common bacteria found in our mouths.
The research team, led by biologist Jane Carlton at New York University, also discovered traces of DNA from domestic animals and from specific bacteria that are associated only with certain foods.
A similar study recovered traces of DNA on ATM keypads, reflecting the foods people ate in different neighborhoods in New York. People in central Harlem ate more domestic chicken than those in Flushing and Chinatown, who ate more species of bony fish and mollusks. The foods people ate transferred from fingers to touch screens, where scientists could recover a bit of their most recent meals.
We don’t leave only food behind. Traces of cocaine can be found on almost 80 percent of dollar bills. Other drugs, including morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamine, can also be found on bills, though less commonly than cocaine.
Identifying foods people eat or the drugs people use based on interactions with money might not seem all that useful, but scientists are also using these types of data to understand patterns of disease. Most of the microbes the researchers in New York identified do not cause disease.
But other studies have suggested that disease-causing strains of bacteria or viruses could be passed along with our currency.
Bacteria that cause foodborne illness — including salmonella and a pathogenic strain of E. coli — have been shown to survive on pennies, nickels and dimes and can hide out on ATMs. Other bacteria, such as MRSA, a drug-resistant staph infection, are found on bank notes in the U.S. and Canada, but the extent to which they could spread infections is unknown.
Try as we may to avoid exposure to germs, they travel with us and on us. Even if disease-causing microbes can survive in places like ATMs, the good news is that most exposures don’t make us sick.
Money laundering
Disease transmission linked to money is rare, and no major disease outbreaks have started from our ATMs. Although it doesn’t seem common for diseases to transmit through money, there are ways we could make our money cleaner.
Researchers are working on ways to clean money between transactions. Putting older bills through a machine that exposes them to carbon dioxide at a specific temperature and pressure can strip dollar bills of oils and dirt left behind by human fingers, while the heat kills microbes that would otherwise linger.
U.S. money is still made from a blend of cotton and linen, which has been shown to have higher bacterial growth than plastic polymers. Several countries are transitioning from money made of natural fibers to plastic, which may be less friendly to bacteria. Canada has had plastic money since 2013, and the United Kingdom transitioned to a plastic-based bank note last year.
Even if our money is not directly responsible for spreading disease, we can still use the dollar’s travel history to track how we spread disease in other ways.

The website WheresGeorge.com, created in 1998, lets users track dollar bills by recording their serial numbers. In the almost 20 years since the site’s creation, WheresGeorge has tracked the geographic locations of bills totaling more than a billion dollars.
Now, physicists at the Max Planck Institute and University of California at Santa Barbara are using data from the WheresGeorge site to track epidemics. Information on human movement and contact rates from WheresGeorge was even used to predict the spread of the 2009 swine flu.
Although we don’t know the extent to which money allows diseases to spread, Mom’s advice is probably best when handling cash: Wash your hands and don’t stick it in your mouth.
The Conversation
Johanna Ohm is a graduate student in biology at Pennsylvania State University.

Coyote Baby Saved

 

Note: I was visited by a coyote as I sat on our deck one night. Looked like a youngster, but nearly full-grown.   It came up on the steps and stood there looking at me, seemed uncertain, so I said, “HAH !”, and it turned and trotted away.  I’ve had  similar visits from a raccoon and a small skunk.  I didn’t try to startle the skunk, just let it check out the length of the deck.  RJN
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Reward raised to $8,000 as surviving Barrington Hills coyote pup recovers

The two-pound coyote pup looked every bit like a small domestic puppy Wednesday at the Penny Pond Forest Preserve in Barrington Hills while being held by animal rehabber Dawn Keller of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The coyote, now named Peace, snuggled into Keller’s arm adorably, and when she placed him on the ground for a second, he made a dash despite the fact there was a cast on his right rear leg.

Keller has teamed with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Cook County Forest Preserve Police and the Humane Society of the United States to try and bring attention to the May 11 incident that injured the pup at the Penny Pond preserve in Barrington Hills.

“It was a heinous wildlife crime,” said Sgt. Jed Whitchurch, IDNR’s supervisor for this region, referring to how a fisherman found a burlap bag in Penny Pond, and when he fished it out of the water, there were seven one-pound coyote pups just a few weeks old that all looked dead.

The fisherman called Cook County Forest Preserve Police, and an officer arrived to pick up the coyote pups, according to Lambrini Lukidis, communications director for the forest preserve. She said they are not sure how long the bag was in the water, but six of the pups were found to have water in their lungs, a sign of drowning.

“The police officer put them into a bucket and that was when he noticed one was still alive,” she said. The surviving coyote, just over a pound and two to three weeks old, was taken to Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg. Staffers there in turn called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barrington because they don’t have a permit to keep wild animals.

Say hello to Peace, who has doubled in size and is recovering better than expected, according to Keller.

“The leg was shattered — it was dangling and misshapen, and it was sticking out slightly because of a hip fracture,” she said. Flint Creek staff started treating it with fluids, anti-inflammatory and pain medication. On the second day, it opened its eyes. Nine days later, the leg was set in a cast, and the coyote was eating well and stable at that point.

“Coyotes are really misunderstood. We really struggled with a name because he had such a horrible life so far,” Keller said, adding that Flint Creek staffers turned it around and settled on Peace because they advocate for the peaceful coexistence of coyotes and other wildlife and humans.

“He broke my heart when he was rescued,” Keller said, adding that rescuers were not sure the pup was going to make it through the first 24 hours because it suffered from hypothermia. Its shattered leg was either the result of blunt-force trauma or someone swinging the animal around by it leg, Keller said after consulting with a veterinarian.

The IDNR gave Keller special permission to show off the coyote pup to media in the hopes of garnering more attention about the incident and hopefully more leads, according to Whitchurch.

“Cold-case wildlife cases are tough. We’re hoping with the financial reward someone with information will come forward and tell us,” he said. Whitchurch added that the news of the vicious incident is still spreading, so he is hoping more media attention will inform more people.

“It’s been quieter than we were hoping for. Some people are just hearing about it,” he said, noting that there are two leads received by investigators that could be promising, but it is hard because there is no description to work with yet and it happened in May.

Some people have wondered what difference it makes, since coyotes are one of the few animals in Illinois that can be hunted year round.

“This was not a humane act,” said Whitchurch. “This is an unusual case — it’s not the norm.”

According to the IDNR, about 7,000 coyotes are harvested each year in Illinois with 75 percent taken by hunters and 25 percent by trapping, which is restricted to fall and winter months. The liberal hunting season allows landowners to remove problem animals without having to obtain a special permit. IDNR biologists monitor the populations.

The IDNR also reports that coyotes are Illinois’ largest wild predator and were nearly extinct after the state was settled. They’re most abundant in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts of the state. Their numbers increased dramatically during the 1970s and early 1980s.

While they occasionally take livestock, poultry or pets, their diet consists of animal matter, but they often eat insects, fruits or berries. Rabbits and mice are important food sources, according to the IDNR.

A study in the Chicago area showed the following percentages of food groups occurring in coyotes’ diets: 43 percent small rodents; 22 percent white-tailed deer; 23 percent fruit; 18 percent eastern cottontail rabbit; and 13 percent birds. The presence of human-associated foods, like garbage, was rare, coming in at 2 percent, as was the presence of domestic cat, at 1 percent.

Wildlife experts say coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned, and the IDNR believes trying to eliminate all of the coyotes in an area is not a realistic goal because voids will be filled quickly. Fortunately, removing individuals with “bad behaviors” usually solves a problem even when other coyotes continue to live in an area, according to the IDNR.

A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Barrington Hills case has been steadily climbing from just a few thousand dollars to $8,000 this week. Tips can be left on the IDNR police tip line at 1-877-236-7529.

The grisly incident attracted the attention of the Humane Society of the United States, which has put more than half of the reward money. It had doubled its standard cruelty reward from $2,500 after a board member for the organization agreed to fund the increase, according to HSUS.

“Anyone who could so callously maim and kill defenseless coyote pups and then toss them away like trash is a danger not only to animals but to the community at large,” said Marc Ayers, the society’s Illinois state director.

“We are hopeful that this reward will bring forward anyone with information about this heinous crime,” Ayers added. Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and residents in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community, according to a statement from the group.

The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented, according to the group. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault, Ayers said.

“It takes a special person to brutalize an animal, especially babies,” Keller said. “That’s not normal. It’s really sad.”

Whitlock said the cooperation between the various groups and agencies has been heartening.

“It’s nice to see the stakeholders coming together,” he said. “It’s great to see people care about our natural resources and Illinois wildlife.”

fabderholden@tribpub.com

Twitter @abderholden

Copyright © 2017, Lake County News-Sun

Dolphins to the rescue!

LISTEN:  source

  Down to less than 30 individuals in the entire world, the adorable Vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California are being rounded up and put in protective areas. Mexican conservationist, Lorenzo Rochas Bracho says that to find the elusive porpoises they need the help of US Navy-trained dolphins

 

Duration:

2 minutes

BLACK HOLE NEWS

More Gravitational Waves Detected

LISTEN:  source          Science in Action

 

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced February 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy, it was quickly followed by another find. Now teams working on the LIGO detector have just announcedtheir third new detection. Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe. All three signals are thought to be caused by two black holes merging. This time the spin might give clues as to where the original stars formed.

Safer Gold Extraction
Many gold mines separate the precious metal dust from the rock using toxic substances like cyanide and mercury, but scientists at the University of Leicester have used rock samples from a gold mine in Scotland to prove they can do the job a different way, using a mixture of vitamin B4 and urea.

Genetics of Ancient Egyptian Mummies
Ancient Egyptian mummies give up their genetic secrets. Mitochondrial DNA from mummified remains show how much ancient Egyptians interbred with populations from Asia, Africa and Europe.