Practical Microbiology

Practical Microbiology based on the Hungarian practical notes entitled "Mikrobiológiai Laboratóriumi Gyakorlatok"

Authors of the Hungarian and English versions: Erika M. Tóth, Andrea K. Borsodi, Tamás Felföldi, Balázs Vajna, Rita Sipos and Károly Márialigeti

Authors of the Hungarian version: Csaba Romsics, Judit Makk, Katalin Jáger, Márton Palatinszky and Éva Ács

Editors of the English version: Erika M. Tóth and Károly Márialigeti

Language assistant: Attila Náfrádi

Copyright © 2013 Department of Microbiology, Institute of Biology,Faculty ofScience, Eötvös Loránd University,

The scientific communityhas alwaysplayeddistinguishedattentiontoexplorersof the remotequarters of our Earth, and to the description of their natural history. The founding fathers of microbiology, LouisPasteur (1822-1895),Ferdinand Kohn(1828-1898) and Robert Koch(1843-1910), just to mention a few, were not yet born, or just started school, when Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1869) set sail to America and returned with an amazing collection of plants and fossils (1799-1804). The same is true in the case of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), who participated in an expedition circumnavigating our Globe on board the Beagle survey barque (1831-1836), described his observations, and returned with several plants and animals, etc.

Thiskindof workbasedonanimatedexploratory,descriptivedatagatheringinthefieldof microbiology startedinthe1870’sbythedevelopmentof culture methods. Bythen, Darwinhadalreadyconcentrated on his explanatory work on biogenesis and constituted his hypotheses on the origin of species. This work initiated an enormous series of hypothesis-driven studies. However, in scientific research, this kindof ambiguity(data-drivenexploratoryanddescriptive studiesversushypothesis-drivenexplanatory and interpretative research) has always been characteristic. With the development of the novel genomebased molecular approaches, a new era of diversity exploration has started in microbiology. “Good old hypotheses” based on strain culture studies got turned around, but new data are not yet adequate to reach satisfactory explanations. It is intriguing to participate in this variegation of microbiological studies by either exploring the diversity, or explaining the scientific background of environmental observations.

This practical guide collects and explains the most basic techniques used in general microbiology. Mastering these methods will help the students in many other practical disciplines that apply the techniques of aseptic work, sterilisation and disinfection, or work with laboratory cultures. The series of practical exercises is compiled mainly according to the logic of the exploration and description of the microbial diversity of an environment. Thus, it starts with the description of a microbiological laboratory, preparatory work (sterilisation, etc.), environmentalsampling, the microscopic investigation of samples, the methodology of culture and phenotypic characterisation of strains, and the basic molecular identification techniques. Finally, applied microbiological techniques are described briefly, like practises to characterise microbes participating in the various cycles of elements, or the basic techniques of microbiological qualification of water, and some essential biotechnologies.

The description of the practical exercises is built up similarly. They start with a short introduction describing the principle, then the object of the investigation (i.e. strains or environmental sample), and the applied tools and instruments are listed. The followed procedure is described in the end. The practical sessions in basic microbiology at Eötvös Loránd University,Faculty ofScience are organized on a weekly basis throughout the semester. Thus, where possible, culture incubations last for a week (even when it is not the optimal duration) and students get many preparations pre-arranged (e.g. 24-hour cultures). On the contrary, advanced practical exercises (like in molecular microbial ecology) are
organized into week-long blocks, thus these practical exercises are arranged accordingly.

There is every reason to expect a rapid change in basic microbiological laboratory methodology in the near future. The electronic edition makes frequent modifications possible. The authors will use this opportunity to delete, change, expand or insert exercises in due time.


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