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Fun with Fomites - How can we control microbial contamination?

Did your petri plate grow bacterial colonies after you wiped the object with just water? Probably. This shows you that while plain water can help get rid of some microbes, it doesn't necessarily get rid of all of them. But you didn't grow too many microbes in the dish you swabbed after wiping... Read More

Fun with Fomites - Do you see a pattern in the size and amount of colonies in each plate?

You probably got the most colony growth in section 1 of each plate that grew any bacteria. The number of colonies in each of the four sections of the plates likely decreased from section 1 to 4. This is because each time you swabbed a section of the plate, there were fewer bacterial cells remain... Read More

Fun with Fomites - Which plate grew the most and biggest colonies? Why do you think that is?


Unless the object you tested had been cleaned shortly before you swabbed it, you most likely grew some nice colonies of bacteria in your first plate. Your second plate, the one you swabbed after wiping the object... Read More

Fun with Fomites - Experiment

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Let's Get Small - According to the Reference Chart, an E. coli bacterium is 2 micrometers long. Assuming that it's 1.25 micrometers wide, could you determine how many E. coli could fit on the tip of one of your hairs?

The tip of your hair is about 0.1 millimeters (mm), or 100 micrometers (µm), wide. If you assume that the tip is roughly circular, and the area of a circle is pi times radius squared (3.14 X 50µm^2), then the area of the tip is about 7,850 µm. We're assuming a 2 µm long E. coli cell ... Read More

Let's Get Small - Which kind of microbe is the smallest, a virus, bacterium or protozoan? Which is the biggest?

Viruses as a group are the smallest microbes. Specific kinds of viruses range in size from a few dozen nanometers up to about 1,000 nanometers or 1 micrometer. Bacteria and archaea are generally the second smallest microbes as a group. But some types of bacteria—Chlamydia, for exampl... Read More

Let's Get Small - Why do scientists need to use models? Why can’t they just look under a microscope to see what they need to see?

As you've just learned, microbes are so almost unbelievably small, that they can be difficult to see and work with. Therefore, scientists may instead use models to compare and study creatures that are difficult to see and handle. The models are much larger than the actual microbes of interest an... Read More

Secrets Of C. Difficile's Protective Shell Revealed, Paving The Way For New Superbug Drugs And Vaccines

The detailed structure of a protective 'jacket' that surrounds cells of the Clostridium difficile superbug, and which helps the dangerous pathogen stick to human host cells and tissues, is revealed in part in the 1 March issue of Molecular Microbiology. Read More

Let's Get Small - Experiment

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Caught Dirty-handed - What infectious diseases could be spread by failure of people to adequately wash their hands?

There are many germs that can be spread or picked up through inadequate hand washing. For example, cold viruses can be spread by touching people or objects. The flu virus is often spread by contact with infected people. Salmonella, a bacterium that causes severe upset stomach, can be picked u... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - What difference does soap make?

As the experiment showed, washing with water alone doesn't do as good a job as washing with soap. In the same way the soap lifts off the paint so it can be rinsed away, soap grabs microbes so they're flushed away by the water. You just can't see it happen as easily with invisible microbes as you... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - How might hand washing affect your family’s health?

You can spread germs to anyone or anything in your home that you touch. You can also get germs from objects other people have touched. If members of your family make an effort to wash often at appropriate times (see When to Wash), you can help reduce the chances of each other getting ill. Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - Experiment

When was the last time you washed your hands? Did you use soap? What have you done since you washed? Have you eaten, put your fingers in your mouth or touched someone else?


Observations in public restrooms have revealed that only about 68 percent of Americans wash up before leaving. Y... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - Experiment

When was the last time you washed your hands? Did you use soap? What have you done since you washed? Have you eaten, put your fingers in your mouth or touched someone else?


Observations in public restrooms have revealed that only about 68 percent of Americans wash up before leaving. Y... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - What would happen if you buried a polystyrene peanut and a starch peanut in your yard during the fall and dug up the spot in the spring?

As you probably already guessed, you'd still find the polystyrene peanut intact, although maybe a little more ragged. You wouldn't find any trace of the starch peanut. That's because of the presence of water in the soil and plenty of bacteria eager to break down the starch and use its sugars ... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Are live bacteria necessary for breakdown?

Water dissolves starch, but for starches to be broken down completely, the process depends on the many microbes commonly found in the soil. The microbes make digestive enzymes, like the acids in your stomach, that break down starch into its simple sugar building blocks (a starch is like a long c... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Why does a polystyrene peanut not degrade the same way the starch peanut does?

Polystyrene is the solid form of a clear liquid - styrene - which is a made from petroleum and natural gas by-products. The chemical bonds that make up polystyrene are very strong and stable; they do not break apart easily in water the way that the bonds in starch do. And while many common bacte... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Experiment

Maybe you’ve heard the term "biodegradable." It basically means something capable of being broken apart into simpler substances by natural biological processes.


But what are these biological processes that break some things down? Why do some things biodegrade more readily than other... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you changed the temperature?

Most fungi grow best around room temperature. But they can grow at a range of temperatures from cold (like in a refrigerator) to quite warm (body temperature). At temperatures colder or warmer than their favorite temperature, they usually do not grow as rapidly. If the temperature is too cold or... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you left the bags in a well-lit place instead of a dark place?

Molds grow best in the dark, so not as much mold would be present on bread slices kept in a well-lit place. Read More

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