Researchers create supersized petri dish to study superbugs: 4 things to know

Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston developed a gigantic version of a petri dish housing billions upon billions of bacteria to simulate the evolution of antibiotic resistance, according to episode of "Science Happens" produced by STAT.

Though infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria are responsible for approximately 700,000 deaths annually — a number that could one day increase into the millions — this prominent threat to humanity remains largely invisible as the tiny microbes responsible don't create visual cues the way a natural disaster or scoured battlefield would. To provide a visual experience of the antibiotic resistant catastrophe, Roy Kishony, PhD, a biologist at The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and visiting professor at Harvard Medical School, teamed up with colleagues to create the Microbial Evolution and Growth Arena plate.

Here are four things to know about the MEGA plate.

1. Dr. Kishony was inspired to create the plate after seeing advertisements for the movie "Contagion," which consisted of a giant billboard resembling a battlefield of bacteria.

2. The MEGA plate is two-feet wide by four-feet long and consists of nine sectors across which the bacteria can move. The sectors on the edge contain no antibiotics, but toward the center the number of antibiotics increases greatly.

3. It takes the bacteria 11 days to travel from the edge of the plate to its center. The bacteria stall as they move inwards, since they are introduced to new levels of antibiotics and then develop immunity.

4. In September, Dr. Kishony and colleagues posted a video of their experiment online. Since posting, the video has racked up almost 25 million views on Youtube.

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