When you take a look around you’ll find a large variety of living things in all shapes and sizes. But are you aware of the whole other world of microscopic living organisms? Too small for the naked eye to register yet teeming with invisible life. How can you not when they are VIRTUALLY EVERYWHERE?
During the second week of my #BEinternship here at the Seychelles Bureau of Standard (SBS) I was placed in the Microbiology Laboratory for two days. After gearing up in my lab coat and gloves, the two lab personnel (Mr. Lewis and Ms. Underwood) gave me a break down of their daily tasks, some info about some equipment that they use and the different kinds of tests that they do.
On that bright Monday and Tuesday morning inside the well-equipped lab, there were a variety of samples already waiting to be tested. These included…
-raw fishes (frozen of course for health and safety reasons regarding ‘Histamine’ which I explained in my first blog)
-water used in ice manufacturing plants to make ice for storing of fishes
-water from sewage treatment plant
… Just to name a few
But “What is it that they test for in those samples?” you might ask…
In the MB Lab they used the different samples for APC (Aerobic Plate Count) test and testing for a variety of microorganisms (mainly bacteria class 1 and 2) such as E-Coli and Salmonella. Two microorganisms which I’m sure that you’ve probably heard of but they also test for others, some with names that I can’t even pronounce.
While the different types of culture medias which would then be used as a nutrition source for growth of microorganisms’ colonies where being melted on the hot plates then placed in the water bath for cooling, I helped with the preparations for the experiment like labeling the petri dishes, pouring the agar jellies into the petri dishes and so on.
After several procedures, the petri dishes containing the culture medias with the microorganisms were finally ready to be incubated for 24 or even 48 hrs. In the mean time we head over to the room next door containing autoclaves (equipment used for sterilization) and dishwasher. I had to micropipette sodium thiosulphate into several sampling bottles that once contained chlorine water probably from a pool or tap water. This compound act as a ‘suppressive agent’ used to neutralize the chlorine residue in the bottles before placed in the autoclaves.
Good housekeeping practices had to be maintained at all times and we always had to use ethanol to disinfect the benches after use. These were done as a way to help minimise the risk of contamination. Great skills and focus is required to do the test as the microorganisms may be small but they are mighty. If you were to ingest contaminated food or water containing either salmonella bacteria, E-Coli bacteria or another food borne illness you’d without a doubt end up experiencing several symptoms from the infection mainly involving the gut like severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting etc…
The reasons why they performed these tests on a daily basis (+ confirmation tests afterward) are not only to ensure our safety in terms of food consumption but also as an organisation that’s registered and being accredited by the ISO, it is crucial that the tests done are on an international standard especially because the fishes and fish products we produce here in Seychelles are mostly being exported to countries all around the world especially in the EU.
Written by : Camilla Labonte