In order to isolate, study and efficiently treat a bacterial outbreak, it is vital to be able to grow, store and identify the particular strains of bacteria that cause the disease.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes can have far-reaching effects beyond the damage caused on the day they occur. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti damaged the already limited sanitation systems leading to areas without adequate toilet and washing facilities; perfect for the spread of infection diseases.
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When studying how infections grow and spread it is always helpful to be able to see the organism causing the disease. There are currently a range of microbial and labelling techniques available to view micro-organisms within the cells they infect, and one of the most useful is bioluminescence imaging.
When confronted with a new bacteria there are a series of simple tests that can be carried out to give a rough idea of the properties of the bacteria you are dealing with.
For a microbiologist, viewing bacteria is rarely a problem. When I look at bacteria in the lab they are samples that I have grown specially, in aseptic conditions to stop any other bacteria getting in.
Although bacteria are single celled organisms, they are capable of working together in massive bacterial colonies known as biofilms. Within the biofilm bacteria will differentiate to perform different tasks, all wrapped up within a sticky substance that holds the cells together.