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How clean is your daily commute?

05 April 2017

New research has identified the black cab as the most contaminated mode of public transport in London, while an Uber is the cleanest.

Dry cleaning specialist ZipJet swabbed five different modes of popular public transport in the capital to investigate the bacteria commuters are exposed to.

Samples were taken from a bench at London Victoria station, five black cab seats, five Uber seats, five seats on double decker buses and five seats and hand rails on the underground.

The same process was repeated for commuter locations in Paris and Berlin. 

The swabs were sent to a laboratory in Mannheim, where they were processed to identify different microorganisms. 

The seats found in black cabs were revealed to host pathogens associated with salmonella, e coli and faecal contamination. Bacteria originating from saliva associated with pneumococcal infections was also found and the seat was home to a high level of bacteria usually found in stagnant water and soil. 

The Victoria Station bench was the second most contaminated location on the commute. There were high levels of spore forming gram positive rods and nonfermenting gram negative rods. However, none of the more harmful pathogens, such as enterococci and enterobacteria, were found.

In third place was a seat on the London Underground. While surprisingly found to be cleaner than a seat in the black cab, it was still quite dirty. High levels of contaminants originating from the mouth and human gut were found such as streptococcus and enterobacteriaceae, strains of bacteria associated with food poisoning, UTIs and gastrointestinal infections.

The seats of an Uber was found to be the cleanest mode of transport in the city. No pathogens associated with faecal matter or saliva were found in the vehicle and, the overall level of bacteria was low.

The double decker red bus was the second cleanest way to commute. There was a high level of non-forming gram negative rods, typically associated with stagnant water and pneumonia in special circumstances. There was also a low level of bacteria typically found in soil on the seats, indicating someone may have been ignoring the “no feet on the seat” rule.

A bench in Paris central station had higher levels of bacteria than any mode of transport in London. The Berlin Bus was the cleanest way to travel overall, followed by the London Uber and the Berlin U-Bahn. 

Although most bacteria are harmless to healthy individuals, some can have a negative effect on those with vulnerable immune systems. 

“You can easily stay clean and healthy when using public transport,” Constanze Wendt, a specialist in hygiene and microbiology at Limbach Analytics GmbH, said. “After travelling, you can avoid contamination simply by washing your hands and washing clothes thoroughly to avoid a buildup of bacteria.”

To find out the full list of bacteria and pathogens and locations swabbed visit: www.zipjet.co.uk/dirty-cities-index

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