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Biologists Study What Kind Of Bacteria Is On New York City Subways

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A team of biologists want to know what sort of bacteria is riding on the subways with straphangers.

CBS2's Christine Sloan reported the Weill Cornell Medicine biologists, led by Dr. Chris Mason, took nylon swabs of benches, turnstiles, railings and seats on trains.

"The place we got the most bacteria and division of organisms was on wooden seats," Mason said. "We actually see less on steel surfaces."

The swabbing is part of a global anti-microbial resistance study as 54 cities in 32 countries are collecting DNA and microbes simultaneously. The study is funded by the Gates Foundation.

"Bacteria actually makes antibiotics to compete with each other, so we can grab them and discover what they're making and use it as a way to find new drugs," Mason said.

Previously, Mason found ocean bacteria in Sandy-flooded stations, all kinds of food particles and traces of meningitis that can't make people sick.

Mason said the humidity keeps the bacteria intact.

"This could be bacteria associated with water," he explained.

Mason added there's actually more bacteria on your hand than on a railing or on a seat.

"It's actually safe in the subway," Mason stated. "It's basically like shaking hands when you walk on the street."

More than 8,000 samples will be taken from the subway by the end of the day and it will all be logged in a mobile device app to see what kind of bacteria lurks in different cities.

The results should be out in the fall.

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