We all know the subways in New York City are crawling with germs, but now we can see what those germs look like in action.

Brooklyn artist Craig Ward decided to take culture samples from subway poles and see what would grow in his petri dishes. Ward was inspired by a woman who grew bacteria from her son's handprint, and remembered the old saying, “when you hold on to the subway railings, you shake hands with 100 people all at once."

The intrepid artist rode all 22 lines equipped with a bag of sterile sponges and began swabbing the handrails and plastic seats.

“As soon as you start taking out scientific equipment and petri dishes, people did start to look a bit,” Ward told New York magazine. “But no one really challenged me. You can get away with most things on the subway.”

The samples were then put into agar and cultivated in a warm environment. To make things snazzy, Ward arranged the bacteria roughly in the shapes of the subway line's letters and lit them in the corresponding colors (the G line in green, B line in orange, etc.).

While stunning to look at, Ward managed to identify some threatening microbes, like E. coli and salmonella. You may want to wash your hands after looking at his samples.

F Train (E. coli, Micrococcus luteus, Bacillus subtilis), via Craig Ward

G Train (E. coli, salmonella, Micrococcus luteus, Bacillus subtilis), via Craig Ward

L Train (E. coli, Proteus mirabilis, Micrococcus luteus, Bacillus subtilis, Serratia marcescens), via Craig Ward

B Train (E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis), via Craig Ward

Craig Ward

Click to enlarge, Craig Ward

[h/t: NY Mag]