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Lab-work without a lab: culturing bacteria in rural areas with limited resources

In order to isolate, study and efficiently treat a bacterial outbreak, it is vital to be able to grow, store and identify the particular strains of bacteria that cause the disease. While this can be a fairly simple task in a well stocked laboratory, it’s a lot harder to achieve out in the field, in tropical or rural areas without access to much laboratory equipment or a reliable electricity supply. New techniques for working in an electricity-free environment are therefore both interesting and very important for the treatment of tropical bacterial diseases.

A recent paper looks at how the bacteria Salmonella enterica can be cultured and strain-identified in an environment with limited resources. Rather than using a conventional incubator, the researchers used an insulated container (previously used as a vaccine storage box!) and little “phase-change packets” to control the temperature. These packets contain a substance that maintains a temperature of 38°C while changing from its liquid form back to a solid.

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