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Some Of The Microbes In The New York City Subway Sound Terrifying

A recent study found bubonic plague and anthrax. But riders shouldn't worry, researchers said.

Posted on February 6, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. ET

Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

The 7 train

Weill Cornell Medical College researchers released a study Thursday mapping the microbes found on the city's 24 subway lines and at all 466 open stations. Here's what they found:

To start, nearly half of the specimens collected — 48.3% — "did not match to any known organism."

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But some of the bacteria collected were very well known, and included traces of the bubonic plague, anthrax, and MRSA.


But, the report notes, "the results do not suggest that the plague or anthrax is prevalent, nor do they suggest that NYC residents are at risk."

The anthrax "is consistent with the many documented cases of anthrax in livestock in New York State and the East Coast broadly," Dr. Christopher E. Mason, the lead author of the study, told the New York Times.

Plenty of human DNA was found, and it largely mimics the racial and ethnic makeup of the surrounding neighborhood, the study found.


Samples from the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway stop on the L line "showed a majority African American and Yoruban ancestry for a mostly black area in Brooklyn," according to the report.


The Mt. Eden Ave. station on the 4 train in the Bronx, an area that primarily consists of people of Hispanic and Amerindian descent, found DNA with Mexican, Colombian, and Puerto Rican traits.


And in Midtown at the 34th Street-Penn Station stops, the there was an abundance of British, Tuscan, and European genes, along with some Chinese, "which also matches the census demographics of the neighborhood," the study said.

Most of the microbes from humans come from the skin — but many others come from the gastrointestinal and genitals.

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