NEW YORK (PIX11) — Straphangers aren’t just packed into subway cars with their fellow commuters, they’re also sharing a car with a lot of potentially harmful bacteria.
Researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan spent 18 months gathering DNA samples from subway stations all around the city to identify the types of bacteria floating around our public transit system.
The results, published to the Wall Street Journal, showed genetic material from 15,152 different species. While most was harmless or unidentified, data showed almost half of the specimens collected belonged to bacteria.
So far, a total of 67 species of bacteria associated with illness have been located. According to the report, germs found ranged from ailments like the common cold to deadly bacteria from meningitis and the bubonic plague.
An interactive map highlights each subway stop and the bacteria found. To collect the DNA, researchers swabbed multiple areas around the subway stations including turnstiles, Metrocard vending machines, stairway rails and benches.
The data breaks down the types of bacteria found, what was swabbed and a percentage of bacteria, non-bacteria and unidentified DNA.
At the Times Square Subway stop, researchers uncovered 114 unique bacteria like sepsis, food poisoning and staph infections.
Not all bacteria found came from illnesses. Several samples related to the surrounding businesses, namely food joints. The study found bacteria associated with mozzarella cheese at 151 stations. Traces of chickpeas were also detected on multiple subway platforms and benches.
A spokeswoman for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the study is “deeply flawed.”
“The interpretation of the results is misleading, and the researchers failed to offer alternative, much more plausible explanations for their findings, which is common best practice for scientific papers,” a department spokeswoman said in a written statement.