A Bacterial Census in Bay Ridge

Tyshawn Murray of Flatlands uses a fine gorgonzola to demonstrate how bacteria used to make Italian cheese could have wound up on the turnstiles at the R train’s Bay Ridge Avenue station. (Photo by Georgine Benvenuto via The Brooklyn Paper)

Tyshawn Murray of Flatlands uses a fine gorgonzola to demonstrate how bacteria used to make Italian cheese could have wound up on the turnstiles at the R train’s Bay Ridge Avenue station. (Photo by Georgine Benvenuto via The Brooklyn Paper)

Enterococcus italicus, a bacterium used to make Italian Piemontese cheeses, has been found in more than half of the subway stations in Bay Ridge, according to a Weill Cornell Medical College study of bacteria in city subway stations that Max Jaeger reports on in The Brooklyn Paper.

The news that trillions of E. italicus organisms inhabit the turnstiles at the Bay Ridge Avenue and 86th Street stations flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that Italian-Americans are decamping from Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn enclaves. The Ridge has just 11,791 folks claiming Italian ancestry — 16.2 percent of the area’s population — according to 2009-2013 census data.

Apparently the bacteria are entirely harmless.

“If you like pizza, these are your best friends,” said Christopher Mason, a geneticist at Cornell and the study’s senior author.

In fact, E. italicus could prevent harmful bacteria from spreading throughout the city, according to Mason.

“These bacteria may even be helpful, since they can out-compete any dangerous bacteria,” he said.

Read The Brooklyn Paper to find out how the bacteria might have spread, and to learn what some of the locals – of Italian origin and otherwise – had to say about the microbial population in their subway stations.

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