MathBench > Microbiology

Methods For Counting Cocci

Comparison of methods

We've talked about 3 methods so far: just plain counting under a scope, using a photospectometer to do the dirty work, or growing bacteria in a dish to count the piles of descendants they leave.

There is one other way that we could (theoretically) figure out how many cells there are: we could gather them all in one place and weigh them. This would be the biomass method. Biomass is an important way of measuring populations in the lab, but in Frank's case it would not help us -- we would need to collect about 10 million bacterial cells before we could weigh them, and if we could do that, we could probably just cure Frank then and there.

So, let's compare the 3 practical ways we have of measuring the infection:

  Direct Count Spec Viable Plate Count
Which one requires the least time (for example, the boss wants the answer before lunch)?
Which one requires the least effort (think lab intern pain)?
Which one can distinguish live from dead cells?

And one more question:

confusedOne day an overzealous intern decided to compare all 3 methods. Here's what she found, but she forgot to label which reading came from which method:

347 organisms/mL

520 organisms/mL

510 organisms/mL

Can you tell which reading is which? And what phase of growth (lag, growth, stable, death) is the population in?