Identification of Unknown Bacterium #11

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In todays world of ever evolving genetic mutations the incidence of drug resistant forms of microorganisms are on the rise. The importance of identifying these pathogens and their related epidemiology has become increasingly more important. The purpose of this study was to identify an unknown bacterium in a controlled laboratory environment over a 5 week period. Utilizing a variety of differential testing and staining methods learned in the microbiology course, students were to determine the identity of an assigned unknown organism. Observations were made and recorded each week to narrow down the scope of identification. Data has been presented in the tables, charts and drawings herein and reflect the results of microscopic observations as well as the differential tests results on various agars and broth cultures. Although all tests were not conclusive, the unknown organism labeled Unknown #11 was found to be a member of the family Enterobacteriacea and Genus Serratia marcescens.


The field of Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, including but not limited to bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. The exact number of identified organisms numbers in the millions. The vast majority of the aforementioned organisms are too small to be seen with the naked eye but have the potential to cause insurmountable harm to their host organisms, some of which can be humans. This study was performed as a way to learn current and past methodology utilized by microbiologists in the identification of unknown microorganisms under controlled laboratory conditions. The controlled conditions limited unnecessary exposure to the organisms thereby protecting laboratory participants from potentially becoming infected by the specimens. Although the majority of the organisms utilized are actual microbiota, under the right circumstances they can be quite pathogenic. Studies such as this are very useful as teaching and learning aids both in the classroom and in the laboratory. Studies utilizing unknown microorganisms familiarizes students with different families of organisms and their characteristics as well as allowing them to become proficient in various laboratory techniques used for identification purposes. In the 1950's an organism was erroneously thought to be non-pathogenic and was used in school experiments to track infections(1). This incident speaks to the need for proper identification of microorganisms. If the organism used in the 1950's had been properly identified and labeled a pathogen, proper aseptic technique in conjunction with heightened awareness of laboratory participants would have kept exposure risk to a minimum. A study utilizing unknown specimens is not without consequence. Testing for identification of microorganisms at times have proven to inconclusive. That is, the organism does not fit neatly into any specific identifier box. The organism may test positive for a reaction this is typically negative for its' genus or vice versa, negative for a typical positive reaction. This being the case, the potential exists for incorrect identification of organisms. Additionally, These "unidentified" organisms hold the potential to be extremely pathogenic. In a clinical situation this type of study could prove to be very informative for determining the cause of unidentified illnesses and/or diseases. For example if multiple members of staff working in a new building report similar signs and/or symptoms of the same type of illness, testing can be done to determine the cause of the illness. A study would be done to define relatedness amongst members of the reporting group and then studies could be conducted on common contact areas. The study would be used to determine the causative agent of the building related illness and a potential cure. Clinical trials of medications are used every day to examine the effectiveness of medications on diseases...
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