Scientists who took samples on the MBTA from everything from subway straps to outdoor CharlieCard machines found that the microorganisms they found showed no greater virulence - or greater resistance to antibiotics - than you'd find elsewhere.
In a study released today, the researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also said they found no differences based on the particular subway lines they sampled - sorry, D Line riders, stop lording it over Orange Line regulars - but did find differences between, say, vertical poles and seat backs. And indoor CharlieCard machines had different types of bacteria on their touch screens than outdoor ones, they found.
A key finding for those who swab themselves down after a T ride: The researchers found "minimal presence of pathogenic and antibiotic resistance on the Boston transit system."
In fact, after comparing their samples with stool samples taken in the US, China, Malawi and Venezuela, the researchers reported:
Both the air microbiome and Boston subway samples had noticeably lower levels of [such microorganisms] than were seen with typical human stool samples.
In general, the microorganisms found inside train cars matched that typically found on the average person's skin and hair, the study found - adding the researchers found only very low amounts of the organisms typically found in people's digestive tracks and mouths, so maybe that seat really is wet because of a dripping umbrella and not something else - although hanging straps were "enriched" with oral organisms.
All surface types were dominated by skin microbes, with smaller proportions of oral, gut, and environmental taxa across seats and touchscreens.
They described where they took samples from:
Train car samples were collected from the red, orange, and green lines and comprised 6 surface types, including grips, horizontal and vertical poles, seats, seat backs, and walls. Station samples were collected from the touchscreens and the sides of fare ticketing machines.