Health: Metro Microbes

Did you take the subway today? Have you ever taken the subway before in your life? If so, you have likely been exposed to Bubonic Plague, Staph, various types of bacteria known to cause food poisoning, tetanus and, of course, mozzarella cheese. In total, researchers have identified  over 500 species of bacteria, including some from foods as well as 67 known to cause illness, in the subways of New York City. Put down the hand sanitizer – The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city’s subways, said there was no threat to human health and the study’s lead author agreed. “Despite finding traces of pathogenic microbes, their presence isn’t substantial enough to pose a threat to human health,” Dr. Christopher Mason, assistant professor of computational genomics at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a written statement. “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.”  So what purpose will the research serve? Mason said the new microbe map will serve as a baseline measure, and it might prove helpful in tracking outbreak of disease in New York (Ebola, anyone?) and averting bioterrorist threats.

Contributor: Phoebe Roe


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