Here’s a scary campfire story for germophobes: imagine a team of scientists collecting microbial samples from a bunch of surfaces on subway trains and train stations in the Boston subway system — the places where you sit, hold on, or press buttons to buy tickets. The places you can’t avoid if you use mass transit. The places where terrifying germs are lurking. The scientists analyzed the samples, and, as you always knew, all the surfaces tested were absolutely CRAWLING with microbes and bacteria. *SHUDDER*
But hold on. This study is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie — it has a twist ending.
The VAST majority of the subway germs the scientists found were totally harmless, normal bacteria. You expected the grossness levels to be off the charts, right? Yeah, not so much. “We were surprised by how normal a lot of the samples looked,” said study author Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, to ScienceDaily. “Even when we looked closely, there was nothing unusual or dangerous about the microbes we found. It shows that, in the absence of something like flu season, all of the germs you run into, even in a crowded environment like the T, are normal.”
So that’s . . . surprisingly comforting. Out of all the germy-but-not-dangerous surfaces in the subway system, can you guess which one was germiest? That would be the hanging grips, because “porous surfaces can collect microbes more efficiently than something solid like a metal pole.”
Basically, if you really want to cling to your germophobia, don’t cling to those grips. But otherwise, on a microbial level, the subway — or at least the T in Boston — is not a very scary place after all.