Microbiologists like to say that 99 percent of bacteria can't be cultured in a lab, and the saying drives Mike the Mad Biologist "up a wall." The problem, Mike says, is that microbiologists aren't being creative enough when it comes to finding way to grow bacteria. When he was a postdoc, Mike did a simple comparison using standard rich lab medium and a home-brew low nutrient agar to grow some microbes, and found that his special plates had 20 to 40 times as many bugs as the standard plates. These days, one of the side benefits of the Human Microbiome Project is that researchers are getting very creative in their methods to grow human bacteria, as well as waiting longer than would be usual for normal cultures. "These are very cool results, and I hope they put the 99 percent of bacteria are unculturable myth to rest," Mike says. "Seriously, have some pride, fellow microbiologists, and be clever when you isolate."
Thinking Big About Something Small
Sep 03, 2010