Health and Science

NYC's silent metro commuters: 562 species of bacteria

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

New York's subway system, already among the busiest in the world, carries more commuters than previously thought: researchers have identified 562 species of bacteria in the city's subway stations including 67 species associated with illness, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 18 months of scouring the system, Weill Cornell Medical College geneticist Dr. Christopher Mason and a team of researchers found germs that can cause bubonic plague, meningitis, stomach trouble and antibiotic-resistant infections. They also found bacteria that keep the city livable by sopping up hazardous chemicals or digesting toxic waste.

For the big data project Mason and his team gathered DNA from the 466 open stations shared by 5.5 million riders everyday. The genetic material was sequences and sorted by a supercomputer. In total, the team detected signs of 15,152 types of life-forms.

While the numbers may be surprising, Mason said the levels of bacteria detected pose no public-health problem. Almost half of the DNA collected came from harmless bacteria.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal