Biotech Students Work to Reduce Harmful Bacteria in Hospitals

Hospitals constantly seek new methods to combat deadly bacteria which can survive for days on patient bed rails, tray tables, door handles and IV poles.

In a recent study, the Copper Development Association determined that bacterial levels in hospitals were reduced when the stainless steel fixtures were changed to a copper-containing alloy such as brass.

“The question is: how does copper alloy kill bacteria?” said Dr. Nidhi Gadura, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences and Geology at Queensborough Community College. Dr. Gadura has received three grants from the Copper Development Association, in 2008, 2010 and in 2011 for her proposal; Membrane Lipid Peroxidation as a Mechanism of Copper Surface-Mediated Toxicity.

To tackle this scientific mystery, five of Queensborough’s biotechnology students embarked on a research project in June and July to uncover the biochemistry that allows for some mechanisms to destroy bacteria such as E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Students worked on various aspects of the project.

The results were successful.

Janet Long, ʻ12, who will participate in the Biotechnology program at York College beginning in the fall of 2012, has been conducting research in this area for over a year. She partnered this summer with Kuang Myat, now in his third semester. Together they proved that harmful bacteria die on copper within seconds.

“The lab research team here is amazing–collaborative and informal,” said Robert Hong, who is planning to graduate in January 2013 and continue his education at a four-year college. “We learned from each other and benefited from a supportive faculty who opened doors for us to participate in national conferences.”

Robert’s research, which spans over two years, was published in 2011 in the scientific journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Both Robert and Janet are recipients of the 2011 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) award for their poster presentations.

Additionally, students Jasodra Ramlall and Qing Yao Ding determined the positive effects of copper mediated toxicity on Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast). Jasodra is in her second year; Ms. Yao Ding will graduate in January 2013 and plans to transfer to the biotechnology program at Hunter College.

Queensborough Community College offers a Dual/Joint A.S. /B.S. degree in biotechnology with York College.