April 14, 2011

Your Belly Button is Dirty

Do you ever stop and think about your job and who you interact with on a daily  basis?  Like, if you're a teacher, odds are you interact with children more often than not, with the exception of some lunchroom chatter with other teachers.  If you're in showbiz, you're probably doing the song and dance with agents, actors, publicists and celebrities, going to the Ivy for a "bite" or meeting up in Meatpacking for drinks.


But what if you're a scientist? Who do you talk to and what do you talk about?  Well, for this group of microbiologists, the main topic for quite sometime has been "belly buttons."


Scientist Jiri Hulcr and his colleagues at North Carolina State University recently launched a Belly Button Biodiversity project in an effort to get people pumped about microbiology and to learn more about bacteria found on skin.  Why the belly button?  Well, according to Hulcr, it's a 'safe havel for normal skin microbes' because it's so protected and so few people wash this area with soap.


So how are they sampling their specimen?  Researchers hand each participating subject a sterile long cotton swab, which they will turn around in their navel three times.  After placing the swab in a vial, the scientists will grow the bacteria in a culture until they get "big and chunky enough" to be photographed. (I may or may not have just vomited in my mouth.  In fact, the only time "big and chunky" should be in the same sentence is when Tracey Morgan is doing a comedy bit on stage talking about women.")  I digress.


It's a bit gross to think about all of the bacteria literally living on your flesh, your eyelids and now ... your bellybutton!  I'm curious to follow this study and really get the ins and outs (ZING!)