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Hong Kong Study Documents Bacteria Patterns On Subways

August 01, 2018 - 8:25 pm
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HONG KONG (WCBS 880) -- In what may not come as a big surprise at all, a study says subway trains are rolling petri dishes.

Scientists sent volunteers out to subway lines – not in New York; this study was in Hong Kong – and had them swab common surfaces.

What they found was that subways are indeed teeming with bacteria. But checking the different microbiomes, they came to realize that commuters tend to pick up bacteria from virtually everyone who traveled on the same system prior to them.

The best time to limit exposure is early morning, the worst time late in the evening – when those trains and buses are infested with germs.

Speaking to Gizmodo, researcher Gianni Panagiotou of the University of Hong Kong also noted that in the morning, each Hong Kong subway line had its own microbial characteristics – for instance, the one going along the coast was colonized with aquatic species. But Panagiotou told the publication that as the day went on, the microbial communities started to become similar regardless of the line as they became dominated by bacteria found on human skin.

For the study, volunteers rode one of eight lines on the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway System during the morning and evening rush and used the handrails, Gizmodo reported. They then had their palms swabbed, the publication reported.

Similar studies have been conducted over the years on the New York City subway, using swabs of various surfaces.