Amazing Life Offbeat

By William Lailey


A lab tech has taken a photo of her son’s hand bacteria to show a class how many microbes are living on his hands.

Lab technician, Tasha Sturm, 52, waited until her son came in from playing outside before asking him to stick his hand on an agar plate to demonstrate the results in a microbiology class.

The photograph was taken to show students in a microbiology lab how many colonies of fungi and yeast will grow on someone’s hand after being outside.

The stomach-churning results are enough to warrant washing your hands an extra couple of times a day, after showing an almost alien looking handprint of organisms living on her son’s hands.

Tasha said: “At the beginning of every semester the students first class is about microbes being everywhere, I’m responsible for setting up demonstration plates of where microbes can be found.

“A few weeks before one of these classes I brought my son in from playing out in the garden and asked him to press his hand into an agar plate.

“Like a typical boy he had made a real mess outside, so he went and cleaned it all up but before he washed his hands he pressed them down on the plate and this picture is the result.

“He pressed his hand into an agar plate which created this handprint portrait of all of the microbes that were on his hand after being outside.

“The agar is a nutrient rich base for microorganisms to grow, creating these colourful colonies of fungi and yeast.

“Every time you do it it’ll look different and you can’t recreate the same image every time because the microbes will always be different.

“It creates a snapshot or a fingerprint of the exact moment it happened and what microbes are present at the time it was done.

“Bacteria is everywhere, and this would be the same for anyone who did the same thing, the most important times to wash your hands are before eating and after using the bathroom.

“I’ve been doing this for over twenty years and it’s never looked the same.”

The image is striking, with different colours popping up as if it was painted by an artist but what can be seen is simply the dirt on Tasha’s sons’ hand at the time of the handprint.

Tasha received some throwback to how dirty her sons’ hand looked to people online that had seen the image, but she stresses that his hand would look no different to anyone else’s if they did the same thing.

Tasha said: “Microbes live all over our body and are vital to having a healthy immune system.

“At the time of the image this is what was present on my son’s hands and if I did it tomorrow it would produce a similar image even after washing them.”

Tasha says one of the reasons for these demonstrations is to show students how science works in a relatable language, so she demonstrates the science in a “normal language” to help people understand the technical aspects and that Microbes are everywhere.

Tasha said: “There’s a big push in science communication now to speak normal language versus the scientific language to students.

“I always tell people in science that even if their work means the world to them, if they can’t explain it in a way that anyone would understand then nobody is really interested.”