Micrococcus luteus growing on brain-heart infusion agar (photo: Medical-Labs.net)
Recently I began a local exploration of something that has been reported nationally, but surprisingly has been repeated very few times in the scientific literature: testing reusable grocery bags for bacteria that could cause foodborne illness. I am very excited to be working with Jon Chrisos at WGME in Portland, who recently traded some folks some new shopping bags for their old workhorses. I received these often used, potentially crawling bags to assess who exactly is living in them!
Step 1 involves using sterile swabs dipped in sterile broth to cover the inside of the bags. Any bacteria living in there should be collected on the swab, and then will be transferred to an agar plate. The agar I will use is called "brain-heart infusion agar", and it is a rich and wonderful smorgasbord for most bacteria associated with foodborne illness. The agar plates will go into an incubator that will keep them at human body temperature overnight, and the next morning we will see who we collect! Then Step 2, identifying the bugs we cultivate, commenced. More on this next time!