Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
A British artist got an inspiration that would make your skin crawl. Yes, have you ever thought of being wrapped-up in cloths made of deadly Bacteria? Before running away listen to this story of the artist who combines terrifying bugs into textiles.
She stitches bacteria and antibiotics into cloths to make patterns and reveal the stories behind microbes. Who is she? Well, a bio-artist, who else, called Anna Dumitriu.
Her biological 'inks' range from methicillin and vancomycin - resistant Staphylococcus aureus to E. coli and other super bugs like tuberculosis causing bacteria!
Sometimes the bugs themselves mark the cloth; in other cases, such as the Staphylococcus varieties, she uses a patented agar jelly to stain them instead. She stitches them into Victorian - era cotton dresses, silk patchwork quilts and crocheted wool bedcovers and then kills them using a high pressure lab sterilization technique! The VRSA dress metaphorically maps the evolution of S. aureus from a harmless human microbe into a killer bug by using three separate strains to pattern the dress.
She harvested everyday S. aureus from her nose, and grew it on the dress. Next, she grew two deadly laboratory strains of evolved S. aureus
Dumitriu embroiders patterns on the dress using thread stained with modern antibiotic drugs and older antibiotic compounds such as yellow turmeric and orange Prontosil, the first commercially available antibiotic, which is derived from a red dye.
The VRSA was resistant to all of these, and only died when sterilised. To avoid catching the bugs, Dumitriu works inside a biosafety level 2 lab, following standard lab safety procedures. Even when using everyday environmental bacteria, she keeps the cultures at low temperatures to minimise the chances of breeding pathogens.
She is also designing a dress using hypersymbionts – human-dwelling bacteria that actively improve us, making us fitter, happier or more intelligent.
She says, "it is about uncovering the bizarre histories behind medical microbiology and showing how much it has evolved."