The daily commute is a fact of life for many people who work in London, but you may want to rethink your mode of transport if you usually take the Tube. Scientists have conducted an analysis of the surfaces commonly touched by passengers on the London Underground and found a potent combination of germs and bacteria.
Among the results were bacteria from the Staphylococcus species, with the most startling being S, aureus. It is known to cause a number of unwanted conditions, including skin infections, sinusitis and food poisoning.
In order to carry out the test for Coldzyme, a researcher used the Tube just as a commuter would, but while wearing a white glove. They touched the chip and pin pads of the ticket machines, handrails on the escalators and stairs, and the grab rails on the train carriages themselves.
The glove was then analysed and a wide range of bacteria and fungi were detected. From Pseudomonas species to E.coli and salmonella, many unpleasant things were discovered. This is particularly dangerous for those who have weakened immune systems, but are not good for anyone’s health in general.
Dr Jacob Malone, joint group leader at the University for East Anglia and the John Innes Centre, said: “The range of bacterial species we isolated was quite large, with many different species, and many shapes, sizes and colours of colonies present.
“The bacterial colonies we see on the plates only represent a tiny subset of the different species that were likely to be present in each case, as the vast majority of bacterial species cannot be grown in the lab.”
A spokesman for Coldzyme added: “Whether it's a bacteria that can cause an infection or sickness bug or a simple cold virus, any one of them has the potential to leave you feeling at least a little under the weather.”
You can protect yourself against the bugs on the Tube by wearing protective gloves and covering your mouth, as well as washing your hands and clothing thoroughly. Alternatively, you could swap the London Underground for a coach and see a marked change in your commute.
While most of the germs present on the Tube will not cause serious harm in the majority of cases, their presence means there is the potential to make passengers sick. According to Transport for London (TfL), 1.37 billion people use the network every year.