Putting London transport network under the microscope

  • tube map

Don’t forget to wash your hands before you eat! Researchers had discovered 9 of the world’s most threatening superbugs on the Tube, buses and taxis.

Dr Paul Matewele, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human Sciences at London Metropolitan University, worked with Staveley Head, taxi insurers in order to conduct a swab test on London’s transports. The study found a total of 121 bacteria including 9 antibiotic-resistant bacteria that was recognized by WHO.

The London underground was identified to be the dirtiest with the Victoria Line alone carrying 22 different types, including 4 antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The tube lines from dirtiest to cleanest:

-       Victoria line: 22 bacteria found

-       Piccadilly line: 20 bacteria found

-       Circle line: 19 bacteria found

-       Northern line: 17 bacteria found

-       District line: 16 bacteria found

-       Waterloo and City: 16 bacteria found

-       Jubilee line: 16 bacteria found

-       Central line: 15 bacteria found

-       Hammersmith and City line: 14 bacteria found

-       Bakerloo line: 13 bacteria found

-       Metropolitan line: 11 bacteria found

Apart from the tube, around 40 bacteria were found on private hire taxis with 14 living bacteria on average in each cab and 37 on the buses with an average of 8.

Dr Matewele stated: “Not only did we find some of the world’s most dangerous superbugs, but other forms of mould and bacteria that can be harmful to human health were discovered as part of this research. For example, Staphylococcus Aureus was a popular bacterium found upon all forms of transport.

“Bacteria from rodents like rats and mice were also found upon tube lines, along with traces of faecal bacteria and bacteria from sewage. These can cause water infections or skin infections like abscesses if you come into contact with them.”


The results of the research were published on May 15 along with an interactive website.