Mapping the Subway’s Microbiome

Mapping the Subway's Microbiome
A vast international study is being undertaken to classify, using metagenomics, the bacteria that dwell in the underground transport systems of 50 cities across the globe.

Wearing latex gloves, a man applies a large cotton swab to the steps of a central Paris metro station before sealing it in a plastic tube. Although similar to a scene from the television show CSI, no one is tracking down a dangerous criminal. The aim of the operation, repeated several times throughout the day of June 21, 2016, at the entrances of several Paris metro stations, was strictly scientific: to identify the microorganisms that have taken up residence in this suburban environment.

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