Community survey for bacterial contamination

I. A survey of commonly touched surfaces in the community for potential disease-causing bacteria

Josť de Ondarza, Ph.D., Associate Professor, SUNY Plattsburgh, and Erin Connors, News Channel 5, Plattsburgh NY

Summary: As a follow-up to investigative reporting about food safety and bacterial contamination, Erin Connors proposes a report on the likelihood of picking up germs (disease-causing microbes) via touching commonly handled surfaces such as shopping carts, public phones etc. Dr. de Ondarza, Microbiologist at SUNY Plattsburgh, will assist in collecting samples in the community and culture these in his laboratory at SUNY Plattsburgh. Positive test results for particular bacteria can be confirmed with more specialized testing through the CVPH clinical laboratory. Testing of this nature may detect potentially disease-causing bacteria, but not viruses.

Results/video link at WPTZ:


II. Water cooler sampling project

Dr. Josť de Ondarza

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

 I am engaging in a research project to study bacterial contamination of office water coolers. This project idea originated with a community contamination project in May 2007 conducted for WPTZ (News Channel 5, Plattsburgh) where a water cooler that was tested was found to harbor both Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas strains of bacteria. Since these strains are opportunistic pathogens, and since water coolers that are shared in offices provide both a good growth environment (moisture) and opportunity for spreading germs (multiple users), I decided to conduct a similar sampling on the PSU campus.

 I am collecting approx. 100 ml of water from on-campus water coolers, as well as a subsequent swab of the water cooler nozzle(s). The water sample will be tested for bacterial contamination with a Presence/Absence test for coliform bacteria. The swab will be incubated in growth medium for 4 hours and subsequently swabbed on growth media that are useful for isolating Staphylococcus and coliform bacteria. Any suspect growth will be further examined to determine the identity of the bacteria.