Homemade Microbiology, and what can go wrong!

Last semester a student-led protest did this to my automobile and caused the university to stop classes for 5 days. This semester I had to make a tough choice. There was an intense confrontation between the Authorities of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the Association of Dominican professors. A tumultuous standoff that postponed classes for three weeks. So I had to decide whether I would stay and take the abuse, or move on and leave them be to their own ills. This won’t be the first horror story you’ll hear about the situation at the Oldest University in the New World, but I don’t want to turn this into a political piece trying to resolve someone else’s problem. This is to show you a silly little experiment I tried to do for a class in hopes of shedding some light on how easily it is to find microbes to experiment with.

It may look like a homemade kitchen, but those are the conditions of the labs where students are dealing with Level II pathogens.

As you’ll see throughout the video there are numerous violations of lab safety standards everywhere. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what that can cause, but just in case you have no idea take a look at this.


That my friends is a nasty case of what is known in the “Biz” as Community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA). Contaminated by the handling of lab materials in precarious conditions. I’m just glad it was something treatable. I was a bit surprised by how relaxed people were around this case as if it happened all the time.

O.K., this wasn’t a negative piece about bacteria either. This is more to showcase the ease of finding and culturing Bacteria with minimal supplies. We might even be able to call this “Off-grid Microbiology”, but not really. I’m sure science purist will appreciate the resemblance to working conditions in the 19th century.

The microorganisms we culture on the video are not known to be pathogenic. However, when taking environmental samples near public bathrooms (like we did) there could always be the possibility of a potential pathogen, so proper safety form during collection is also recommended.

This species has many pathogens but also many uses. It is actually the organism responsible for the luscious lips of celebrity starlets. It is also used all over the industry as a decomposing agent to create a biochemical synthesis.

Although we were able to get mixed cultures who morphologically resembled Clostridium Sp. the results were inconclusive due to lack of biochemical or genetic testing in the form of PCR analysis. This would be the only sure way to tell which organisms were really present.

So to answer, the initial question. I’m still unsure if I will return to the University. It seems their problems are getting in the way of progress, and I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with internal politics. I’m going to take a sabbatical for a year and try to get hired at a good lab. I’m afraid if I keep accepting these working conditions I’ll develop bad behaviors that will be difficult to change later and that’s no way to successfully create a biotechnology start-up.

Opps, almost forgot to mention that the main picture is a cross section of a male Horse’s gonad.Just in case anyone wanted to know.


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