So I've been thinking about doing this for awhile now, debating it with myself as to if it would be an interesting and educational interactive series or if it would just cause more of what I call microphobia, and then there is the possibility no one will be interested. Microphobia is the term I use to describe the irrational fear of bacteria/microbes/germs. You see the vast majority of bacteria and other microorganisms are harmless and a lot are in fact beneficial and we need them. Within the human body there are more bacterial cells than there are human cells, I think that is so cool (yes I am a total nerd, this is well established). Microbes are used to make food and beverages, like bread, beer, wine, yogurt, some sausages, cheese, etc.
Diabetics can thank bacteria for their insulin, back in the day they used to extract insulin from animals like goats, horses and sheep, this would work for awhile but eventually the human immune system would mount an attack on the foreign substance. Knowing the structure of human insulin scientists converted the protein structure into DNA code and inserted it into E. coli* which turned it into an insulin factory and diabetics no longer have to worry about running out of animals their body hasn't already rejected. Of course there are bad microbes out there that can cause disease, spoil food (which can be good**) and other undesirable things, but they are in the minority. Even the bad can be good, Clostridium botulinum, the causative agent of botulism, makes the most potent toxin known to man but it has medicinal and cosmetic uses***.
What's the point? Oh yeah, I had a point! The point is that sometimes I have a plate or 10 that doesn't grow, normally I would just throw it away since it is not considered good technique to try and plate a new sample on it. I also have Q-tips that I could toss in the sterilizer. And so dear readers if you are curious as to what is present on some surface that I have access to and isn't obscene I am willing to swab it, if and when I have the time, and if anything cool grows I'll take a picture and write a post about it and give you some linky love if you have a blog. So if you think this is a cool idea and you have something in mind leave a comment to this post telling me what you want swabbed, if it is something I think is disturbing or gross (like naughty bits, besides I can already tell you boy parts usually are covered in Staphylococcus and girl parts have mainly lactic acid bacteria) it won't be published. Bacteria and fungi are pretty much everywhere so it is highly likely something will grow, I do however use a media that is made for lactic acid bacteria and not all microbes are culturable (most aren't) so I won't guarantee something will grow but most likely something will. Oh and I do not have the time nor the supplies to identify the organism(s) that grows, sorry.
And it has been awhile (again) so here is the next Guess that Gizmo:
Remember, Guess That Gizmo is a semester long contest, here are the other Fall 2008 GTG's:
Fall 2008 1
Fall 2008 2
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*E. coli is usually a harmless organism that most people are colonized with, there are a few pathogenic strains which of course can cause disease but the vast majority of E. coli strains are harmless and potentially beneficial.
**While food spoilage is generally a bad thing it does have the benefit of preventing people from eating potentially dangerous food.
***Botox is botulinum toxin, it can be used to treat spastic disorders, excessive sweating, and of course the more famous use would be reducing wrinkles. Personally I think it is insane to inject that toxin into someone for cosmetic reasons, there have been deaths associated with it as I recall. 1mg of the toxin is theoretically capable of killing 1,000,000 hamsters/guinea pigs (I have heard of this study not seen it).
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