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A Study of the Presence of Bacteria in Moist Disposable Towelettes and Antibacterial Wipes

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Purpose

To determine if a random sampling of new and partially used moist towelettes, antibacterial wipes, and their dispensers are contaminated in any way.

Hypothesis

The skin is our first line of defense that protects the rest of the body from the pathogenic bacteria present in the environment. In the course of a given day, a person's hands may encounter numerous microorganisms and bacteria that can be transferred simply through touching door handles and shaking hands. Moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes were developed to clean hands when soap and running water are not available. However, moist towelettes and even antibacterial wipes may also serve as a mechanism for the transferal of bacteria to and from the towelette dispenser.

Materials Needed

  • disinfectant spray
  • disposable sterile gloves
  • 10 different brands of new, unused moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes in plastic dispensers
  • sterile applicators
  • inoculating loop
  • petri dishes: tryptic soy agar (TSA) with 5% sheep blood (available from scientific supply stores)
  • incubator

Experiment

Cultures will be taken from ten different brands of moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes from new containers under sterile conditions to determine whether bacteria are present. Then these containers will be given to 10 different individuals who will use the moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes for one week. At the end of the week, the dispensers will be collected from these individuals and cultures will be taken from them to determine if the used containers are hosts for bacteria.

Procedure

  1. Obtain 10 different new, unused types of moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes that come in plastic dispensers.
  2. Once you have collected your samples, sterilize your work area, put on the sterile gloves and open the first container of moist towelettes or antibacterial wipes. Remove the first towelette and rub a sterile applicator across the surface of the sheet. Streak the sample onto a petri dish. Cover the dish with a sterile cover and label it with the brand name of the sample.
  3. Repeat step 2 for the other brands of moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes. Then close the containers of moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes and set aside.
  4. Incubate the petri dishes for 48 hours at 35°C.
  5. Remove the petri dishes and inspect for the presence of bacteria and record your data.
  6. Take only those dispensers that tested negative for the presence of bacteria and distribute them to different individuals who work or go to school in different environments (your teachers, family members, neighbors, etc.). Tell your volunteers that they can use up to two towelettes or antibacterial wipes per day for one week and ask your volunteers to use the towelettes instead of washing their hands. Do not tell them what the purpose of the experiment is so that you do not receive any false results.
  7. At the end of the week collect the dispensers from your volunteers and write the name of the volunteer on the dispenser he or she used.
  8. Once again, sterilize your work area, put on the sterile gloves, and open the first container of moist towelettes or antibacterial wipes. Remove the first towelette or wipe and rub a sterile applicator across the surface of the sheet. Streak the sample onto a petri dish. Cover the dish with a sterile cover and label it with the brand of the sample and name of the person who was using it.
  9. Repeat step 8 for the other brands of moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes.
  10. Incubate the petri dishes for 48 hours at 35°C.
  11. Remove the petri dishes and inspect for the presence of bacteria. Record your data.

Results

  1. Did any of the new, unused moist towelette dispensers test positive for the presence of bacteria? What might have contributed to this result? Did any of the new, unused antibacterial wipe dispensers test positive for the presence of bacteria? What might have contributed to this result?
  2. Did any of the used moist towelette dispensers test positive for the presence of bacteria? Did any of the used antibacterial wipe dispensers test positive for the presence of bacteria?
  3. If any samples tested positive, interview the person(s) from whom the sample(s) came from to inquire about the conditions that surrounded their use of the product and the way they used the product.
  4. If any samples tested positive, examine the shape and design of the dispensers from which the samples came and compare them to those dispensers that did not test positive to see if there is a correlation between the presence of bacteria and the shape and design of the moist towelette or antibacterial wipe dispenser.
  5. Did the antibacterial wipes perform better than the moist towelettes in terms of preventing the entrance of bacteria into the dispenser?
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