Back to Bacteria

Students at LRSEF 2016 looked at the growth of bacteria in both positive and negative settings.

Gabrielle Dunbar, who entered as a sophomore at Ballard High School, proposed a one-minute solution to a global problem. The problem? Sickness being passed around in schools. Dunbar’s solution is to take a minute to have children wipe bacteria off of desks and equipment.

She tested substances on desks before and after wiping them down with antibiotic solutions, and she found significantly less bacteria after wiping the desks down. She said she got the idea from her sister’s preschool classroom. Her sister’s class consistently had less sick children, and she attributed this to the teacher wiping down all the desks.

This is not Dunbar’s first year testing bacteria; last year, she tested the bacteria on water fountains. She said she likes doing projects on bacteria because “it’s fun to gross people out.”

Elaina Render
Elaina Render presented her findings on the relationship between antibiotics and probiotics at LRSEF 2016

Elaina Render, who entered the fair as a seventh grader at St. Francis of Assisi, was skeptical when doctors prescribed for her to take probiotics while she was also on antibiotics. She wondered if the antibiotics would kill the probiotics, and she questioned how the two would interact with each other.

She tested how four different kinds of probiotics interact with different concentrations of an antibiotic called ampicillin. The antibiotic killed some of the bacteria, leaving only two of the four brands viable. Digestive Advantage was the most resistant to the antibiotic, but it did not grow in the highest concentration of ampicillin.

Upon discovering that some probiotics can be resistant to the antibiotics, Render began to wonder if the bacteria in the probiotics could develop into bad bacteria. While her test for E. coli came out negative, she said it could still transform into other types of bad bacteria.

Because of the probiotic industry’s rapid growth, Render was suspicious about legitimacy and regulations. She said probiotic companies are not required by the FDC to prove the product to be beneficial. In relation to her findings, Render suggests that doctors prescribe specific brands of probiotics. She also recommends for the brands to be named in published studies.

Render said she could expand on her project by researching the timing of taking probiotics and antibiotics. She said taking them at different times of the day could affect how they operate and interact.

Whether people are trying to kill bad bacteria or harvest good bacteria, they can benefit from asking questions and being aware of the interactions between bacteria and the surrounding environment.

Share this article to inspire students who may want to participate in LRSEF 2017 on March 4. Students from 52 Kentucky counties are welcome. Projects must be complete by February 22.