Researchers map bacteria in New York City subway system

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Carolina Leid has the details from the Upper East Side. (WABC)

For a year and a half, a team of geneticists at Weill Cornell Medical College swabbed subway railings, turnstiles and benches to find out what kinds of microscopic "friends" were along for the ride.

The most surprising findings were trace amounts of anthrax and the Bubonic Plague, but researchers say that they were nowhere near enough to be dangerous.

"I'm a germophobe - it's gross," says subway rider Dijenae Bourne.

Dr. Christopher Mason led the study, and says riders are not in any dangers. His team collected 1,500 samples. Their goal? To map out a genetic profile of the subway system.

"I ride the subway every day, and I bring my daughter on the subway - it's something that we all touch," says Dr. Mason, "5.5 million people per day touch the subway, so we wanted to see what it is it that we are all sharing really."

Dr. Mason's team found more than 15,000 types of life forms - most harmless, and nothing posing a public health problem.

"It is absolutely not necessary to ride the subway with gloves on. When we were taking samples, I saw people with paper towels, gloves with plastic on their hands - all of it is unnecessary," adds Dr. Mason.

In fact, Dr. Mason says that riders should be more soothed than ever - in fact he even says he has become more confident.

An MTA spokesperson echoed that sentiment in a statement, saying,

"As the study indicates, microbes were found at levels that pose absolutely no danger to human life and health. The subway environment is not different than the environment above ground."

Dr. Mason says the next step is conducting the same study in cities including Paris and San Paolo.


CLICK HERE to see the Weill Cornell Medical College report


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