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The Truth Behind What's Actually Living On Our Favourite Statues…

LONDON, Aug. 30, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Atlas Biomed, the UK's leading DNA and gut microbiome personalised healthcare company, have created the first ever microbial map of Europe's iconic monuments. The study has shown that the identifiable bacteria found on monuments are mostly harmless, but a few are linked to disease and can be potentially dangerous for humans.

  • In a recent citizen-science project, Atlas Biomed and their team of microbiome experts visited 13 cities across Europe including London, Edinburgh, Florence, Paris and Amsterdam to collect swab samples to analyse what bacteria lives on 24 different famous statues.
  • Statues included London's famous Lions in Trafalgar Square, the Oscar Wilde statue by Charing Cross and the famous Juliet Capulet statue in Verona.
  • With the summer holidays now in full swing, these statues will become some of Europe's major tourist attractions, drawing crowds of people from all over the world.
  • Some of the bacteria detected, such as Staphylococcus, can be potentially dangerous and can lead to infections including sepsis, conjunctivitis, cystitis as well as endocarditis. For those with weaker immune systems, hand-washing soon after contact with a monument is advisable.
  • Another potentially life-threatening bacteria lurking on the monuments is Pseudomonas, which may cause folliculitis and ear canal infections. 
  • Other insights showed that London's Oscar Wilde statue has the highest bacterial diversity in Europe. Conversely, Bender's Book from Saint-Petersburg was the least diverse. 

A total of 29 different bacterial genera were found across all samples, including some with surprising origins. Several bacteria usually associated with plant disease were detected, as well as two genera that can be found in the human gut. It's likely these bacteria hitched a ride through the air or possibly on someone's hands. 

Strikingly, several monuments from different countries shared similar microbial signatures. One similarity stood out in particular: London's Trafalgar Square Lions shared the most in common with Amsterdam's Bronze Breastplate, which is embedded into a cobbled street in the red-light district. Why? Atlas Biomed experts surmise that it's due to people's feet touching these icons, rather than their hands.

The study by Atlas Biomed proves that getting up close and personal with some of these lucky statues might not be such a good idea. As humans, we are naturally inclined to physically interact with our environment, and cultural enrichment is an intrinsic part of the holiday experience, especially when you head to a European capital. Usually we habitually touch our faces hundreds of times a day. So, if you are planning on visiting a statue (and possibly touching it, or even rubbing it for luck), make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Atlas Biomed experts have also advised not to rub your eyes after touching these statues, and to always wash your hands with clean water and soap after visiting these tourist spots. If that's not possible, keep tea tree oil in your bag, which is naturally antibacterial. Another crucial tip from the microbiome team to keep dangerous bacteria at bay, as well as keeping your gut happy, is to avoid drinking water from outdoor fountains and instead use refillable bottles with a filter.

The CEO of Atlas Biomed, Sergey Musienko, says: "The diversity of microorganisms that are present in, on and around humans comprise a significant component of overall health. It's important to remember that, just because a bacterium has the potential to make us ill, it doesn't mean it will. There are a lot of factors that enter into this equation, like the quantity of bacteria present (our swab samples didn't allow us to assess this) and how weak or strong a person's immune system is."

Notes to Editors:

Full list of statues analysed:

  1. Lion's statue, London, UK
  2. Paddington Bear statue, London, UK
  3. Oscar Wilde statue, London, UK
  4. Sherlock Holmes statue, London, UK
  5. Greyfriars Bobby statue, Edinburgh, UK
  6. Statue of David Hume, Edinburgh, UK
  7. Statue of Juliet, Verona, Italy
  8. Porcellino statue, Florence, Italy
  9. Victor Noir's Tomb, Paris, France
  10. Dalida statue, Paris, France
  11. St. John of Nepomuk statue, Prague, Czech Republic
  12. Fat Policeman, Budapest, Hungary
  13. Little Princess statue, Budapest, Hungary
  14. Sitting wild boar, Munich, Germany
  15. Catfish statue, Munich, Germany
  16. Lion's statue (left) outside the Residenz building on Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
  17. Lion's statue (right) outside the Residenz building on Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
  18. Statue of Zitronenjette, Hamburg, Germany
  19. Järnpojken (Iron boy), Stockholm, Sweden
  20. Margaretha Krook sculpture, Stockholm, Sweden
  21. The bronze breastplate, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  22. Revolution Dog statue, Moscow, Russia
  23. Ostap Bender statue (Nose), St Petersburg, Russia
  24. Ostap Bender statue (Book), St Petersburg, Russia

About Atlas Biomed:

  • Atlas Biomed is a UK-based personalised health company launched in 2016. By combining the latest DNA and microbiome technologies with digital health data, users can take control of their health and make informed decisions about their well-being. 
  • The company's mission is to drive the movement towards preventive healthcare with evidence-based technology and empower people to make positive lifestyle changes before they get sick.
  • There are two tests available in the UK and EU: the DNA Test and the Microbiome Test. Both tests plug into the company's online "health control centre" that organises users results into personalised insights and recommendations that are scientifically proven to reduce their disease risk.
  • Atlas Biomed tests have been registered with the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a Medical Device and meet all required compliance standards for personal and genetic data protection. In order to ensure the highest quality of results, the Atlas Biomed Scientific Advisory Board is made up of leading global experts in the fields of personalised health, genetics and molecular biology.
  • Atlas Biomed products are currently available for purchase in the UK, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Poland, Ireland and Canada.

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