Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to eight metres, so imagine how many people could be inadvertently sprayed in the close confines of a Tube carriage?
If that’s not a scary enough thought, then how about this: A team of microbiologists at London Metropolitan University found 121 different types of mould and bacteria growing on the seats and handrails across all the Tube lines, buses and taxis.
Of those, nine were ‘superbugs’ resistant to antibiotics and are among 12 the World Health Organisation has issued a warning about, including Klebsiella Pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and can be deadly for those with weakened immune systems.
There was found to be acinetobacter baumannii, which causes pneumonia, bloodstream infections and meningitis, on the Circle Line, while E.coli, which causes food poisoning, was found on the Tube, buses and taxis.
The Victoria Line came out worst, with 22 different bacteria found, while the ‘cleanest’ was the Jubilee Line, with 11 types, the study for Uber and taxi insurers Staveley Head found.
Dr Paul Matewele, who led the study, said the findings were “scary” because superbugs could transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria.
But Jill Collis, director of health, safety and environment for Transport for London, allayed fears of unhygienic conditions, telling the
Daily Mail: “The Tube is an extremely safe environment and our trains and stations are professionally cleaned throughout the day and night.
“There is no cause for customers to worry about bacteria on the Tube or do anything different in terms of hygiene than they would in other public places.”
How to beat bugs on the tube
Hop on a bus
Next time you’re visiting London, consider taking the bus rather than the Tube, as the study found them to be the cleanest method of transport. It’s cheaper and you’ll see more of London from the top deck too.
Remember when we all thought we were going to get swine flu and started bulk-buying hand sanitiser? Well, it doesn’t hurt to carry a bottle with you when you’re taking public transport and make sure you use it when you’ve finished your journey.
Don’t be tempted to scratch an itch on your face or bite your nails while you’re on the Tube, as you’ll risk transferring any bacteria to your mouth.
Bit of an obvious one, but if you’ve got a cold or cough, it’s far better to deposit your germs safely inside a tissue, rather than spread them on to poor unsuspecting passengers.
A 2008 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that one in four train and bus passengers had faecal bacteria on their hands. The simple solution? Always wash your hands after you’ve been to the toilet.
Do you take hygiene precautions on the Tube? Tell us in the comments box below.