In the past few years, there have been multiple incidences of individuals becoming ill after participating in microbiology teaching labs at universities. This has led to altered safety recommendations, including the use of disposable lab coats in microbiology labs. The purpose of this project is to determine whether the levels of bacterial transfer and survival of paper lab coats is high enough to justify requiring Microbiology Departments to issue lab coats for every student in each lab. Escherichia coli has been used as model organism since it is a common teaching laboratory bacterium. Various methods of recovery including replica plating, swabbing, and vortexing portions of lab coats in order to dislodge bacteria have been utilized. Our results show that significant levels of E. coli survive on the lab coat for at least 20 minutes after inoculation. Preliminary results also indicate that a portion of the E. coli is transferred through the layers of the lab coat. Our research indicates that lab coats are a possible source of contamination, and it suggests that using disposable lab coats, which are not taken home with the students, may be a valid safety recommendation.
Koch, Erin; Migliore, Mike; Scott, Madison; Bradford, Elaine; Ambercrombie, John G.; Rudolph, Krista B.; and Whitehead, Kristi J., "Assessment of Bacterial Survival on Disposable Lab Coats Used in Microbiology Teaching Labs" (2015). Focus on Creative Inquiry. 118.