BioBatik: the aesthetics of the emergence of antimicrobial resistance

This is a project that uses naturally pigmented bacteria, and their differential resistance to an antibiotic to generate colourful and autogenic designs on textiles. Similar to the Batik process, the antibiotic here, by killing the sensitive bacteria, acts as a resist.

In the first part of the project the sensitivities of two strains of bacteria to two antibiotics,  Cloxacillin and Kanamycin,  were investigated (see images below).

BioB1

Two paper letter shapes impregnated with the antibiotics Cloxacillin (C) and Kanamycin (K) on agar plates containing cultures of a red pigmented bacteria (Serratia marcescens) and a purple pigmented bacteria (Chromobacterium violaceum). The zones of inhibition reveal that red is sensitive to both C and K, whilst purple is resistant to C but sensitive to K.

 

BIoB2

Two paper letter shapes impregnated with the antibiotics Cloxacillin (C) and Kanamycin (K) on agar plates containing cultures of a red pigmented bacteria (Serratia marcescens) and a purple pigmented bacteria (Chromobacterium violaceum). The zones of inhibition reveal that red is sensitive to both C and K, whilst purple is resistant to C but sensitive to K. The distinct red colonies in the inhibition zone for red and C are mutants of red that have now become resistant to C.

 

To generate the BioBatiks, agar plates containing a concentration gradient of Cloxacillin were prepared, and these overlaid with cotton fabric (see image below).

CLOX

BioBatik. Agar plates containing a concentration gradient of Cloxacillin (C) were prepared (lowest concentration at the bottom), and these overlaid with cotton fabric (see image below). Red and purple were inoculated at the bottom and then begin to grown and move through the cotton, where the encounter ever increasing concentrations of C. Initially,  red is sensitive to C and stops growing and moving when it encounters the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration of C. On the other otherhand purple is resistant to C and continues to grow and move in ever higher concentrations of C.

 

Overtime, mutants of red that are resistant to C emerge, and these eventually move into and grow in the areas of higher C concentration giving a direct visualisation of the emergence of  antimicrobial resistance.

 

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