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Name: Michael S.
Status: Student
Age: 15
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: August 2004


Question:
Hi, My name is Mike. I was thinking about experimenting with anti-biotic for a science fair. I was thinking about culturing bacteria/fungus from top-soil on agar and see if any of them had any anit-biotic abilities (idea from Scientific American magazine). I have two problems, first I'm afraid I might culture something dangerous from soil, so is this experiment safe? And If I do find a fungus or bacterium that has anti-biotic capabilities, how can I identify as penicillium or find out if I have discovered a new anti-biotic organism?



Replies:
You have a good subject and idea but I thiunk your approach needs to be modified. First off, and bacteria or fungus has the potential to cause disease. Many pose minimal risk if properly handled. Get a microbiologist or qualified teacher or hospital lab tech to help you. That said ... Culturing bacteria and fungi from soil is difficult because you would need to isolate the fungi and bacteria from each other in the soil. This might sound easy but it iswork and then you would nee to identify the different organisms before you began your studies...this is a lot of work and you need a number of differnt types of tests and/or agar based media to do this.

I would suggest choosing an easy to grow bacteria that is typically nom-pathogenic and one which you can purchase and then culture it in the presence or absence of different things you know or suspect to be antibiotics. Your "positive control" is the bacteria growing alone on the agar., you should have a negative control also which would be the bacteria on the same control agar bu with a known effective antibiotic. Then all your experimental groups would be different things you think might be good antibiotics...garlic, onions etc. If you use such things you will need to some how sterilize or at least dissinfect them by washing the garlic in a dilute bleach or alcohol solution for 5 minutes or so. Your local hospital lab might donate outdated agar plates.

Good luck
Pf



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