Snips and Snails . . .

Zoe Schemm, Staff Writer

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As the weather turns warmer and thoughts of summer freedom begin to take hold in the teenage imagination, there is one sure-fire way to positively ruin the coming warm months: a summer cold. These dreaded infections can destroy the strongest immune system and, as I well know, make an otherwise delightful beach trip completely horrible. As these germs become common however, it begs the question: are boys or girls more likely to be affected by them? It might seem like this question is impossible to answer, but Mrs. Steiner’s AP biology class delved into this very issue.

The experiment they conducted dealt with the bacteria that grows on the door handles of the bathrooms outside the Social Studies department here at BFUHS. Specifically, they were comparing the amount of bacteria present in the Boys bathroom versus the amount found on the handle of the Girls bathrooms. To do this, they prepared two separate Luria Broth Agar solutions, and filled four petri dishes with this solution. Luria Broth is a nutrient which bacteria use to nourish themselves, and agar is a powder made from seaweed that can harden and is useful in many scientific experiments, including electrophoresis (the movement of charged particles in gel material). Luria Broth Agar essentially feels like hardened jello, and it smells rather disgusting – much like cat food!

Boy germs.

The solutions of this mixture that the Bio kids prepared were done so in completely sterile conditions, in order to make sure that the only bacteria that grew in the containers was bacteria they collected from the bathroom doors. In the interest of sterile conditions the students also made sure to keep the dishes covered and leave them exposed to air as little as possible.

The students essentially ran four trials: two for the Girls bathroom, and two for the Boys. One student would prop the door open while the other would use a sterilized swab to swipe the inside of the door handle. Another student would hold open the petri dish with the Luria Broth Agar, making sure to use the clamshell technique to collect samples: holding the cover of the petri dish at an angle over the dish, like a clam, instead of directly over the dish itself. This technique helps to minimize the amount of exposure the agar has to open air, and therefore bacteria.

Girl germs.

The results of this experiment were rather surprising – unless you happen to be a girl! The Bio kids found that the petri-dish swabbed with the Boys door handle had far more bacterial growth after a period of incubation than the petri-dishes with swabs from the

Cooties.

Girls bathroom. The students hypothesized that the reason for this is that boys are less likely to wash their hands after using the bathroom than girls are, a hypothesis they reached from the observations of the boys in the class. Whatever the reason, as one bio student put it, “I guess science just makes it official: boys really do have Cooties!”

 

 

 

 

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