Nine of worst superbugs lurk on London's public transport

  • Researchers said that the findings were ‘very scary’ 
  • They found nine of th 12 antibiotic-resistant superbugs listed as grave threats
  • E.coli, which causes blood poisoning, was found on the Tube, buses and taxis 
  • The Victoria line was found to be the dirtiest, with 22 types of bacteria 

If you’re planning a visit to London, you might want to take some good handwipes with you.

Nine of the world’s most threatening superbugs have been found on the capital’s public transport – and it could be a breeding ground for more, researchers warn.

They discovered a total of 121 bacteria and moulds on buses, Tube trains and taxis.

Researchers have found the capital's public transport system could be a breeding ground for superbugs 

Researchers have found the capital’s public transport system could be a breeding ground for superbugs 

THE DIRTIEST TUBE LINES 

· Metropolitan line – 11 bacteria found

· Bakerloo line – 13 bacteria found

· Hammersmith and City – 14 bacteria found

· Central line – 16 bacteria found

· Waterloo and City line – 16 bacteria found

· District Line – 17 bacteria found

· Northern Line – 18 bacteria found

· Jubilee line – 18 bacteria found

· Piccadilly line – 20 bacteria found

· Circle line – 20 bacteria found

· Victoria line – 22 bacteria found 

Most worryingly, the team from London Metropolitan University found nine of the 12 antibiotic-resistant superbugs listed as posing the greatest threat to human health by the World Health Organisation.

Study leader Dr Paul Matewele, an immunology expert, said this was ‘very scary’ because superbugs can easily transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria, driving the spread of resistance.

His team took 80 swabs across the London transport network, testing hand rails, seats, doors and walls. Klebsiella pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia, was found in Tube trains and taxis. This nightmare bacteria recently killed a woman in the US after it resisted treatment with 26 antibiotics including colistin, which is considered a drug of last resort.

E.coli, which can cause blood poisoning and salmonella, which is responsible for many food poisoning outbreaks, was found on the Tube, buses and taxis. Acinetobacter baumannii, which can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections and meningitis, was found on the Circle Line.

The Victoria Line was the dirtiest, with 22 types of potentially harmful bacteria, while buses were found to be the cleanest way to travel, according to the research commissioned by taxi insurers Staveley Head.

Dr Matewele said the concentration of superbugs was frightening because bacteria currently thought to be less deadly could soon become resistant to drugs.

‘If bacteria dies but there’s enough bacteria next to it, then the DNA that contains the resistant gene may be transferred to the [second] bacteria,’ he warned. ‘This is very scary.’ 

The Victoria line was found to be the dirtiest, with 22 types of potentially harmful bacteria

The Victoria line was found to be the dirtiest, with 22 types of potentially harmful bacteria

Study leader Dr Paul Matewele, an immunology expert, said the findings were ‘very scary’

Study leader Dr Paul Matewele, an immunology expert, said the findings were ‘very scary’

Antibiotic resistance – in which bacteria evolve to fight off drugs – is rapidly becoming seen as the biggest crisis facing modern medicine.

Jill Collis, director of health, safety and environment for Transport for London, said: ‘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.’ 

SUPERBUGS IN LONDON 
Critical Super Bug bacteria Where it was found The effect
Acinetobacter baumannii London Underground – Circle line Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest and blood infections
Pseudomonas aeruginosa London Underground – Piccadilly line, Waterloo line and City line
Taxi cabs
London Buses
Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest and blood infections
Klebsiella Pneumoniae London Underground ? Circle line, Central line, Northern line, Victoria line
Taxi cabs
Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest, blood and urine infections
E. coli London Underground ? Central line, Victoria Line, District line
Taxi cabs
London buses
Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest, blood and urine infections
Serratia London Underground – Jubilee line, Central line, Bakerloo line, Northern line, Victoria line, Waterloo line and City line
Taxi cabs
Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest, blood and urine infections
Proteus London Underground – Hammersmith and City line, Piccadilly line, Metropolitan line, District line
Taxi cabs
London Buses
Antibiotic resistant and can cause serious chest, blood and urine infections


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