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Fun at the Hospital

February 28, 2013

For out last lab before break, the microbiology class visits our local hospital lab. That’s the place where all your specimens go (urine, blood etc.) after you put them on the counter, or into the little window where they disappear. Like Alice through the looking-glass, on the other side we find another world where hundreds of body fluid specimens incubate within what looks like airplane liquor bottles.

The clinician showed us how she inoculates plates of colorful differential agars–blood agar, lactose MacConkey, even “chocolate” agar (a kind of browned blood, for growing Neisseria from possible STD). With bare hands she opened up plates of Pseudomonas from surgical wounds, and Campylobacter from stool samples. Yup, that kind of stool. And she waxed enthusiastic about MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It’s all over the place she assured us, waving her hands.

Not to worry, the machines test a hundred antibiotics at once; we’re bound to find one that works. That is, unless it’s a virus (viral meningitis), fungus (crypto) or parasite (Giardia) all of which require antigen/antibody tests. Then we’re shown out to the blood bank down the hall, which hopefully remains free of all of the above. All in a day’s work at our friendly hospital.

  1. samldiener permalink
    March 1, 2013 8:35 am

    Hello Joan,

    Regarding finding antibiotics, I’m hoping that the new classes of antibiotics that are engineered to block species-specific bacterial quorum sensing mechanisms will prove out. There’s a great TED talk on bacterial communication from Bonnie Bassler at

    In Peace, Sam Diener

  2. hillaryrettig356 permalink
    March 1, 2013 10:57 am

    Medical microbiology is so cool! We visited a lab when I was a microbiology major at Cornell, some years back and I never forgot how the director could identify almost anything thrown at him. (Not literally, of course!)

  3. SFreader permalink
    March 2, 2013 2:05 pm

    “With bare hands she opened up plates of Pseudomonas from surgical wounds, and Campylobacter from stool samples.”

    Would be interesting to track how many new strains of these diseases such behavior spawns and to see how her antibody profile compares with non-lab personnel.

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