Mapping the bacteria that colonise chopping boards

On the hottest day of the year our project participants met up to talk about the bacteria they've found in their kitchens. 

Project scientist Rich talked about the results so far, including maps of the most and least diverse areas (floors seem more diverse than sinks; door handles more diverse than chopping boards) and bubble charts showing the different groups of bacteria most prevalent in particular places. The group then discussed the difficulties involved when trying to make sense of 'good' and 'bad' bacteria when there are so many different types of bug; and when the broader taxonomic groupings (and even individual species) include both good and bad germs. The challenge of visualising the data produced through bacterial sequencing to address such concerns remains tricky and, at times, frustrating for all!

chopping boards.jpg

In the second part of the meeting, the group came up with an idea for a new experiment: one that looks at how bacterial communities colonise food preparation equipment, and how those communities change (or stabilise) over time. They decided to focus on chopping boards, and are going to swab new boards six times over the course of two weeks to see what bacteria are found on these boards and how that changes (or not) over the fortnight. Seven households are going to use plastic boards, and seven wooden boards, to see if this makes a difference to the colonies that form. Each household is going to keep a 'chopping diary' of the types of food they prepare on the board. And given that we already have data on the bacteria found in each household, we might be able to see if the boards take on the 'microbial signature' of the kitchen to which they are issued. We're all excited about what we might find!

A huge thanks again to all our microbial explorers,

The Good Germs Bad Germs team.