Today was a typical winter Saturday for me, I hopped on the number 1 subway train at 238th St in the Bronx and rode down to midtown for my Saturday volunteer coaching gig. I'm not a germophobe, so I wasn't particularly freaked out by the discovery that the NYC subway system is teeming with microorganisms, with 48% of the DNA recovered belonging to organisms that were previously unknown. There were a couple of samples which had DNA associated with anthrax and three samples of DNA associated with bubonic plague, but I'm not worried- bacteria tend to be promiscuous and exchange genetic material like swingers swap spouses at a key party. Anthrax on the subway? I've never seen them busking.
There are some really interesting findings- the Sandy-flooded South Ferry station has a marine microbial profile, with some specimens typical of Antarctica. Throughout the city, bacterial profiles tend to resemble the residents' eating patterns, with bacteria associated with cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, chickens, and chickpeas (but not Cornish chickpeas) being found in various parts of the system.
The interactive Pathomap promises to be as much of a fun time sink, albeit a less pretty one, as the gorgeous Welikia Project. I'm not freaked out by the discovery of all of these fellow subway passengers, I'm comfortable knowing that I have an entire world in my guts, and that many of its natives are bacterial buddies that I can't do well without. The subway is teeming with microorganisms, and that's a beautiful thing. Maybe the MTA can start spraying the subway cars with a probiotic culture after the trains are cleaned.
That being said, I still won't be doing this anytime soon:
Not even for a dollar.