If you think the resident rat population is the nastiest part of NYC’s subway system, it looks like you’ve got another thing coming. A recent DNA examination of more than 450 subway stations across the city revealed an astonishing 67 types of disease-causing bacteria, including bubonic plague and anthrax. And just in case those aren’t disturbing enough, the project, called PathoMap, also found traces of 562 species of bacteria associated with food poisoning, urinary tract infections, meningitis, sepsis and staph infections. Yechhh.


Although the results of the study may sound fairly alarming, researchers have confirmed that the trace findings of the plague and anthrax were so slight that they were not a threat to subway riders. “Despite finding traces of pathogenic microbes, their presence isn’t substantial enough to pose a threat to human health,” said assistant professor of computational genomics at Weill Cornell Medical College and lead project author, Christopher E. Mason. “The presence of these microbes and the lack of reported medical cases is truly a testament to our body’s immune system, and our innate ability to continuously adapt to our environment.”

Related: NYPD Releases Perfluorocarbon Gas into NYC Subway System to Better Understand Risks Posed by Airborne Contaminants

Interestingly, the report also revealed some of the most common culinary habits of New Yorkers, showing DNA from mozzarella and sausage from take-out pizza, chickpeas, kimchi,and  sauerkraut. Oddly, there seem to be a lot of cucumber lovers in NYC as the DNA of the refreshing green gourd came up as the third-most prevalent complex organism with beetles and flies taking first and second place. Yum.

The human DNA seen in the study showed the variety of racial markings of the city, reflecting the area’s census data and showing the true melting pot demographic that is NYC. According to Mason, the results  can be seen as “a mirror of the people themselves who ride the subway.” More importantly, the report will be used to form a “metagenomic map” of New York, essentially a NYC DNA guide, which could be used to further research how a manmade environment like the subway truly impacts public health.

+ PathoMap

Via Washington Post