map of bacteria

Closer to the first map of bacteria hiding in the New York subway

Micro-organisms are found in every corner of the planet, which also includes the New York subway. For this reason, a group of scientists wants to draw the first map of bacteria hidden in this system of public transportation.

For years, science has known that microorganisms live in every corner of the world. Their incredible resistance to conditions that would be extreme for any other organism makes them a fascinating object of study. And mapping the bacteria of any location undoubtedly generates surprising results.

These microbugs are everywhere. While there are some that can cause infections, the fact of the matter is that the bacteria in our intestines do an outstanding job helping with the process of digestion. But they are so widespread that we can find microorganisms virtually everywhere: on our computer keyboards, in our mouths, in lakes with high salinity, or in deep holes at extremely high temperatures.

The transmission of bacteria from one place to another is very simple; after all, they are microscopic organisms that can live in very harsh conditions. For years, some scientists have even chosen to study the bacteria that live in the coats of medical professionals, in order to spread the awareness of how easy it is to spread infection.

bacteria map

Now, researchers from Weill Cornell University have decided to go one step further: to prepare the first map of the bacteria in the New York subway system. Their goal, aside from mere curiosity, is aimed at finding out what bugs are present on the tracks, staircases and entrances of this vital and heavily-used means of transportation.

If we’ve already seen how microorganisms have no trouble moving from one place to another in hospitals and medical centres, how can we prevent them from migrating in transportation that is used by millions of citizens a day?

However, creating this first map of bacteria will also help to understand the microbiome of the city of New York. For what purpose? To improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the infections produced by these microorganisms, according to the campaign launched in Indiegogo, under the name of PathoMap. And not only that, but project developers also say that this will help in the fight against bioterrorism.

bacteria map

This bacterial map will not be developed using classic techniques of microbiology. Times have changed. For this reason, powerful new computing tools, obtained thanks to advances in bio-computing, will help identify the microorganisms that are circulating on the New York subway on this map.

The conclusions of this project will undoubtedly serve as a guarantee for the protection of public health. All thanks to  bacterial mapping that will make it possible, in good measure, to take an approximate census of the microorganisms that we might encounter every day in the subway. Provided that we live in New York, of course.

Images | Stefan Ray (Flickr), IRRI (Flickr)