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

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.

Map of bacterial distribution across European monuments.

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."

Full list of statues analysed:

Lion's statue, London, UK
Paddington Bear statue, London, UK
Oscar Wilde statue, London, UK
Sherlock Holmes statue, London, UK
Greyfriars Bobby statue, Edinburgh, UK
Statue of David Hume, Edinburgh, UK
Statue of Juliet, Verona, Italy
Porcellino statue, Florence, Italy
Victor Noir's Tomb, Paris, France
Dalida statue, Paris, France
St. John of Nepomuk statue, Prague, Czech Republic
Fat Policeman, Budapest, Hungary
Little Princess statue, Budapest, Hungary
Sitting wild boar, Munich, Germany
Catfish statue, Munich, Germany
Lion's statue (left) outside the Residenz building on Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
Lion's statue (right) outside the Residenz building on Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
Statue of Zitronenjette, Hamburg, Germany
Järnpojken (Iron boy), Stockholm, Sweden
Margaretha Krook sculpture, Stockholm, Sweden
The bronze breastplate, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Revolution Dog statue, Moscow, Russia
Ostap Bender statue (Nose), St Petersburg, Russia
Ostap Bender statue (Book), St Petersburg, Russia


alternative Amanda Palmer Amazon ambient Andrew Elias andy warhol animal farm anna freeman anonymous Anthropocene Anthropology Anxiety Archaeology aristotle ars electronica arse art art news Art therapy Arthur O'Shaughnessy articles artists Arts Arts funding artzine ash audience Austerity australia avant garde Axwell babel bacon Bacteria bame bangalore Barnabe Barnes bat bats BBC BBC charter BBC licence fee BBC television Be Bop Deluxe beardsley bebop beer bengaluru Berlin Berlin Wall Bhutan bigotry Bill Nelson Billy Bragg billy childish Bird conservation Birds Black academics Black history Black History Month 2019 black lives matter blinded by the light blue light Blur Boards Bob Dylan books Boris Johnson bow box sets British art British Empire British Museum Bronze Age BST Byron Camper Van Beethoven cartoon castle Cate le Bon cats cds celery channel charity charlie chaplin chatterley Cheese Cheesemaking childhood rhyme choir Christina Rossetti christmas cinema Classical music Climate change clocks clothing Clubs Cold War collage colonial Comedy Coming up for Air Community competition Composition Coolio coorg Coronavirus Courtney Barnett covid-19 COVID-19 lockdown COVID-19 recovery creative industry creativity Cultural institutions culture curator curious Curious Kids D H Lawrence dada dadaism dale harding dance Dance music Darren Hayman David Bowie david hockney death declan welsh deliveroo democracy Desert locust destruction Diet digital Digital archives DJs Dominic Cummings Dóra Maurer Doris Day download Dr Johnson dream Drenge drums Dumfries dundee Dylan Thomas e-book E. E. Cummings East Germany ECO economics economy Edgar Allan Poe Edinburgh Edna St Vincent Millay Edward Lear electronic Elizabeth Barrett Browning Employment English language Ensemble environment Epicurus Erasure Eric Ravilious Esra Furman essays Ethnic minorities European Research Group Evelyn Ida Morris exhibition extinction rebellion Ezra Furman facebook fanzines fashion Federico García Lorca Feminism Feminism and art festival film folk fontaines dc Fontaines DC Food Food science foot artists France free free russia Future Gare Loch GDP gender inequality George Gascoigne George Harrison George Orwell Gig economy Glasgow Global perspectives GMT Grammar Grayson Perry green issues grenfell Grime grotesque handel happiness Harry Graham hate Heatwave heaven 17 heritage heroes history hogmanay Hollywood homeless Homer Hot Chip humour if you feel it it's real iggy ignorance illustration Inclusive Music Making india indian Indie music Industrial Revolution instagram Interdisciplinarity international labour day international workers day interweb Iron Age Isolation Italy ITV Jack Peñate James Joyce James Taylor janey godley jazz John Cooper Clarke John Keats john Lennon John Linney Journalistic ethics Judi Werthein kara walker Karl Marx Karnataka kat himmel Katharina Garrard (no relation) Katherine Mansfield Keep the Aspidistra Flying keith haring Ken Loach Ken Sprague kensington Kenya Khalil Gibran labour Lamb Language Laurie Anderson les dennis Lewis Carroll lgbtq lgbttqi lights literature live live performance lockdown Locusts london love lucy spraggan lyrics Mae West magazines Malcolm X manchester Martin Niemoeller Marvin Gaye Matthew Arnold may day Maya Angelou McGonagall Meat Meat eaters memorials mental health messiah MGM Michael Sailstorfer Milk Milton mind MISSY HIGGINS Mistakes Mobile apps modern Monty Python moon Museums music music hall Music industry Music therapy music venues Musicals Musicians my map mysore mysuru nanohour national gallery of scotland National Orchestra For All neil finn neon news nhs norfolk norwich Nostalgia Not sure if it's a poem novara media Ocean Colour Scene of course older age Older people Oliver Herford online Opera Orchestras For All Ensemble Ornithology oxfam pain Paramount Pictures Patrick Staff Paul Garrard Paul McCartney Pay gap peace Pensions financial planning people people power perception Performance Philip Larkin photo photography photos picture pitchfork podcasting podcasts poem Poet Laureate poetry Political accountability Political communication Political journalism politics Pop music poster pottery poverty Primal Scream print printing prints Psychasthenia public domain pubs Purple pussy riot quote Race racism radio rainbow Raves RBSA Relaxation religion research Retirement Rewilding Richard Hawley Ringo Starr Robert Burns Robert Frank Robert Herrick Roman Empire Rose Finn-Kelcey Roy Lichtenstein Rudyard Kipling Rutles salad sandalwood satire sayings science scooty Scotland Serpentine sex Shakespears Sister Shelley Shocking Blue Sierra Leone silvery tay sin Sixties Sixties culture sketches Slave Trade Sleaford Mods snippet Snow Patrol social media socialism soundscape sparks Species reintroductions springsteen stained glass stand up comedy Stanley Spencer Steve Knightley Stewart Lee stratford-upon-avon streaming Strypes stuff style Swinging Sixties Switzerland Sybil Andrews Sydney Smith taking back control tapes tate tay Techno music Telegram Tennyson the arts The Beatles The Clergyman's Daughter The Jam The National Gallery The Only Ones The Pocket Gods Theatre thing time tips toilet humour tories traffic trains Transatlantic slave trade Trumbull Stickney trump Turner Prize tv twitter type Uber UK comedy UK culture UK economy UK election 2019 uk music UK politics UK pop music UK theatre UKIP understanding Unemployment unfinished unions Universities unknown author US movies valie export Van Gogh Veganism Vegetarianism Victorians video Vijaya Vitthala Temple vinyl Voter registration Voting W B Yeats wanted war Wassily Kandinsky water Wellbeing Welsh poetry Wendy Cope West Germany Wetlands WH Auden whales what is art WhatsApp Wildfire Wilfred Owen William Blake William Shakespeare William Wordsworth Wilson Keppel and Betty Wolfy O'Hare women women academics Women in film woody guthrie Wordsworth working from home Writing yeah yeah yeahs Young Composer Youth Orchestra youtube Zero-hour contracts zines Zoom
Show more