Today in reasons to move to LA” a microbiology study has shown that almost half the DNA on the New York City subway does not match any known organism. Surprise surprise, growls a New Yorker as he waits for a rat to cross the street in front of him.
“People don’t look at a subway pole and think, ‘It’s teeming with life,’ ” Dr. Christopher E. Mason, a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medical College and the lead author of the study, told the New York Times. “After this study, they may. But I want them to think of it the same way you’d look at a rain forest, and be almost in awe and wonder, effectively, that there are all these species present — and that you’ve been healthy all along.”
Yup, that’s right: he just called subway germs a ‘rainforest.’
Over 17 months, Dr. Mason and his team collected DNA from subway-adjacent surfaces like wooden benches, stairway handrails, seats, doors, poles and turnstiles. The team detected signs of 15,152 types of what the WSJ calls “miniature wildlife.” To be fair, though, only a few thousand of the world’s genomes have been mapped, according to the Times.
From what we do know the team was able to identify strains of beetles and flies, rats, anthrax, and bubonic plague, alongside a diversity of human life from Hispanic and Asian to Finnish.Now for some good news: although 27% of the collected samples had live, antibiotic-resitant bacteria, only 12% could be associated with disease. Plus, NYC hasn’t had a case of the plague since 2002. Why worry now?