Germs on the NY subway. Scores of mysterious microbes found


If you live in a large metropolitan city, you probably have ridden on mass transportation at least once in your life.

If you live in New York City, riding on the subway has been entrenched in your life for as long as you can remember.

But have you ever given thought to how much bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses are traveling in those filthy combines of the subway car?  I am sure most of us have given a passing thought to it, but what kind of microbes are inside the subway?

The answers might surprise you.  Read on… if you dare!

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College set out to find out what is hiding on the underground rail system and found some serious surprises, both good and bad.  There are about 5.5 million weekly riders on the N.Y. subway and thankfully, most of the microbes discovered were not as contagious as one would imagine.  Nevertheless, what they found are typically the same microbes we carry on us, and in us, in our lifetime.

There were 637 known species of bacteria, virus, and fungus discovered in the lab cultures.  Most of those discovered do not cause illness.  They did discover enough yeast to open a small microbrewery.  They found a lot of microbes associated with the food that people were eating on the subway, mostly pizza.  Hey… they do say NY pizza is an experience of its own so now we know why.

Only about 12% of the bacteria collected could be implicated in causing disease and about half of the DNA collected could be linked to known pathogens.  However, the most telling statistic of the study was about 48% of the genetic data discovered did not match any known organism.  This just reinforces how vast and unexplored the microbiome is.

Here’s the part where the news gets bad, or more disappointing depending on how you look at it.  The remaining 52% of the known organisms came from distinct parts of the human body.

1.6% of bacteria were associated with the eyes

6.5% of bacteria were associated with the mouth

9.9% of bacteria were associated with breathing (found in airways)

29% of bacteria were associated with the skin

20% of bacteria were associated with the urogenital tract

32.3% of bacteria were associated with the gastrointestinal tract.

Okay, I don’t know about you but the last two percentages made me throw up in my mouth a little.  If you have bacteria from the urogenital and gastrointestinal areas of the human body, that is saying these people are NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS after using the bathroom!!

Hopefully, most of my readers are washing their hands once they are done using the bathroom.  If not, please do.  It’s a gentle reminder to practice good hygiene.  Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness.

After working in a hospital, I developed a habit of washing my hands that I still carry with me today.  After using the restroom, it is advised to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using the hottest water that you can tolerate.  A good guide is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song while you scrub your hands, paying close attention to finger pads and underneath your nails.  Ever since that time, I noticed a drop in the amount of times I have caught the flu or the common cold.  My friends always comment on my “strong” immune system and although I don’t deny that claim due to good diet, I attribute some of it to how many times I wash my hands.  I probably wash my hands about 20 to 30 times daily. It’s a good habit to get into and the benefits outweigh the occasional dry hands.

Leave me a comment if you are a germophobe like me!

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.


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