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Like riding the subway in New York? You're not alone: so do countless bacteria including bubonic plague, anthrax, and E. coli, the Wall Street Journal reports. A new study maps out the subway system's DNA, revealing an underground world packed with microbial diversity. |
"People don’t look at a subway pole and think, 'It’s teeming with life,'" the study's lead author tells the New York Times. "After this study, they may." Nearly half of DNA found in the 17-month study match no known organism—hardly a surprise, considering that only a few thousand genomes have been mapped so far. And just 0.2% of found microbes come from human DNA.
Among other findings:
- Three stations had "traces of the bacteria that cause bubonic plague," likely caused by rats, says the Journal. But there hasn't been a plague case in New York City for 12 years, the CDC says.
- E. coli showed up in 56 stations and bacteria linked to food poisoning in 215 stations.
- Antibiotic-resistant microbes turned up in 27% of samples, but overall only 12% of found bacteria can be linked to disease.
Researchers say that these findings don't mean New Yorkers are at risk. And the city's health department seems to agree, saying it "strongly" disputes the "flawed" study.