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Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2011 Sep-Oct;39(5):384-90. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20532.

What bacteria are living in my food? An open-ended practical series involving identification of unknown foodborne bacteria using molecular techniques.

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School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4072.


This open-ended practical series titled "Molecular Identification of Unknown Food Bacteria" which extended over a 6-week period was designed with the aims of giving students an opportunity to gain an understanding of naturally occurring food bacteria and skills in contemporary molecular methods using real food samples. The students first isolated two unknown bacterial strains from two food sources from which they extracted DNA and performed PCR targeting the 16S rRNA gene. Gel electrophoresis was used to analyze both genomic DNA preparations and PCR products. Following purification of PCR products, DNA sequencing was carried out and sequence trace quality was analyzed. The students successfully identified the two unknown bacteria using the BLAST search engine and a wide variety of different organisms were found. Assessment of their understanding of the procedure and ability to explain their findings using supporting primary research literature was via an individually prepared written report. Feedback from students over 2 years (n = 52) in a questionnaire revealed that the practical series was an engaging learning experience and lead to perceived improvements in knowledge of molecular techniques and bioinformatics and also about commonly occurring bacteria in foods.

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