Demonstrating An Epidemic

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This experiment allows learners to experience a small scale "epidemic," demonstrating the ease with which disease organisms are spread, and enables learners to determine the originator of the "epidemic." Learners will transfer live bacteria by hand contact, then transfer an inoculum to a nutrient agar plate for 24 hour incubation. After incubation, plates are observed for growth of the microbial agent. By arranging the plates in the order of hand contact, it can be determined which individual received the original contaminant and started the "epidemic," which individuals transferred the organism yet did not grow it out (carriers), and how dosage, or amount of contamination, affects getting a disease. Other means of microbial transmission (air, water, body fluids, fomites) may also be discussed. This lesson guide includes safety precautions, questions, and an additional activity to simulate vaccination.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
4 to 24 hours

Learning Time:
4 to 24 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1- 24 hour nutrient broth culture of Micrococcus roseus or Serratia marcescens
  • Sterile water
  • Sterile serological pipette
  • Hard candy (peppermints work well)
  • Sterile Petri dishes
  • Sterile cotton swabs
  • Disinfectant hand soap
  • Disinfectant cleaner
  • Disposable gloves
  • Laboratory marker
  • Lab coats
  • Incubator, 32-37degC


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Viruses and Bacteria
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Medicine
      • Immune System
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Powel, M. Beth