Gross! Most Bacteria On NYC Subways Comes From Unknown Organisms

There's a whole lot of bacteria lurking around New York City's subway stations, and scientists have no idea where much of it comes from.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College collected DNA samples from 466 subway stations over the course of 18 months, the Wall Street Journal reports, rubbing swabs on turnstiles, railings, ticket booths and seating areas.

A total of 15,152 lifeforms were detected, half of which were bacteria.

At least 67 species of this bacteria could cause infection but were detected in such low levels that they pose no danger to a healthy person.

The researchers also found germs associated with food poisoning in 215 stations, urinary tract infections in 192, meningitis in 66 and bacteria from mozzarella cheese in 151.

But WSJ made sure to note the scientific process that identified the bacteria might not be very trustworthy.

It also doesn't specifically identify each form, only what infections they may be "related" to.

The team analyzed the DNA by entering it into a computer and comparing it to a database listing the most comparable matches of documented lifeforms.

Many results make sense, but others don't seem to coincide with the environment.

According to the database's first matches, which later proved incorrect, there are Tasmanian devils, Himalayan yaks and Mediterranean fruit flies running around New York.

South Ferry Station has been closed since 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy, but the database found bacteria in it that is supposedly only found in Antarctica.

It appears these results were produced simply because the bacteria database is still highly incomplete.

The WSJ says only a few thousand microorganisms have ever had their DNA studied, therefore the genetic makeup of the majority of the world's microscopic creatures remains unknown.

Traces of anthrax DNA were supposedly found on a subway railing.

That bacteria, as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokeswoman stated, isn't even indigenous to this side of the continent.

She said of the findings,

The interpretation of the results are flawed, and the researchers failed to offer alternative, much more plausible explanations for their findings.

So don't be afraid to use the subway.

It's only as gross as it's always been.

Citations: Mapping the New York Subways DNA (Wall Street Journal)