December 7, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

This week's image is the bacterial hand print of an 8-year old boy, developed by his mother in her microbiology lab.

bacteria handprint in petri dish

Wash your hands before sitting at the table!
I can clearly remember my mum shouting from the kitchen, and me looking down at my brownish hands, thinking that it was not such a big deal – just dirt.
Fortunately, back in those days our parents didn’t have an image like the one we have chosen this week: irrefutable evidence that there was more than just dirt on those little hands.

This petri dish was created by Tasha Sturm, who works as a microbiology lab technician at Cabrillo College in California, vividly illustrating the variety of bacteria found on her 8-year-old son’s hand after playing outdoors. The print itself represents several days of growth as different yeasts, fungi, and bacteria are allowed to incubate. We all are aware that our bodies are home to countless millions of bacteria and microorganisms, but it’s almost impossible to comprehend, without seeing them with our bare eyes. “It’s normal stuff that we’re exposed to every day. The skin protects us from a lot of the bad stuff out there,” Sturm said after the picture became viral. “The take home message is that to have a healthy immune system, you’ve got to be exposed to stuff.”

So you know, it’s good to wash our hands but don’t be paranoid; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Miquel Sureda is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

Image: Tasha Sturm