Follow the initial collection from reusable grocery bags, how do we identify the zoo that we collected? The first piece is to get each type of bacteria on their own so that they can be tested individually. This is critical so that their results don't interfere with one another. Imagine if you were trying to describe individual paint colors, but where looking at them all.mixed together? Same idea here- they have to be isolated before they can be described. After the initial incubation, the bacteria that grew had to then be stained and visualized to decide which set of tests to do next. These panels of tests involve looking at the biochemistry of each bacterial species isolated; namely, what sugars can they digest, what enzymes do they makes, and similar traits. It turns out that most well-studied bacteria have a fairly unique biochemical profile, and determining that profile allows one to identify the organism. This is historically how hospital laboritories have diagnosed infections in patients.
One of our findings from a reusable grocery bag in Portland (photo: Meghan May)
I used a commercially available set of reagents to do the biochemical profiling of the isolates from our shopping bags. Identifications were made...and pretty exciting!