Uncovering ‘Silent Killers’ on NSU’s campus

Uncovering 'Silent Killers' on NSU's campusEverywhere you go, they’re hiding in places you can’t avoid. Waiting to take advantage of vulnerability. Growing stronger with every passing minute. Indiscriminate attacks on infants, adults, and the elderly. Are we safe? Can we protect ourselves? Or are we adding insult to injury? Who are these silent killers?

Those are the first few lines of voice-over of my newly-released documentary ‘Silent Killers.’ The report takes a look at bacteria on a typical college campus. I wanted to find out if American campuses are breeding grounds for harmful pathogens, or is it our imagination that is making us sick.

With the help of Dr. Michael Land, a microbiologist at NSU, I collected samples of high-traffic surfaces all across campus. I swabbed shower floor tiles, handrails, computer lab keyboards, ATM buttons, cell phones, gym exercise equipment, and cafeteria salt and pepper shakers.

We then swabbed the samples on selective media, that helps identify specific types of bacterial growth. Dr. Land was surprised to find certain types of bacteria present on many of the surfaces and in such large amounts.

He identified staph growing on the cell phone, salmonella on the salt and pepper shakers, and e-coli on the keyboard. He also says that our fear of bacteria may be creating a problem.

He points out that not all bacteria is bad, and when we use anti-bacteria products or disinfectant to an extreme extent, we eliminate all bacteria, both good and bad. This potentially gives the harmful bacteria a clean slate to “move in” and multiply.

He stresses the importance of being smart about bacteria. “The big deal about bacteria is that they’re part of our existence. We will never get away from them. You can try and deny them, and wipe them off the face of the Earth and everything. And you just simply won’t. They’re going to fill all voids of nature. And so the best thing you can do is realize that an over-buildup of these bacteria are a bad thing. Whether it be not washing a utensil and allowing the bacteria to grow on it, or being in a dorm-like situation where there is a very large concentration of people and bacteria, which is also not good. So just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good thing either.”

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Northwestern State University. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2007 Lane Luckie

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