# Dilution Theory and Problems

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1 Dilution Theory and Problems Microorganisms are often counted in the laboratory using such methods as the viable plate count where a dilution of a sample is plated onto (or into) an agar medium. After incubation, plates with colonies per standard-sized plate are counted. This number of colonies (30-300) was chosen because the number counted is high enough to have statistical accuracy, yet low enough to avoid nutrient competition among the developing colonies. Each of the colonies is presumed to have arisen from only one cell, although this may not be true if pairs, chains, or groups of cells are not completely broken apart before plating. It is possible, but unlikely, for an original (undiluted) sample of microorganisms which is to be counted to have cells/ml so that a pour plate using a 1 ml volume from the sample will give good results. More likely, a sample will have greater numbers of cells/ml; sometimes, as in the case of unpolluted water samples, the sample will have less. In either case, the sample must be manipulated so that it contains a number of cells in the correct range for plating. If the cell number is high, the sample is diluted; if too low, the sample is concentrated. Dilutions are performed by careful, aseptic pipetting of a known volume of sample into a known volume of a sterile buffer, water, or saline. This is mixed well and can be used for plating and/or further dilutions. If the number of cells/ml is unknown, then a range of dilutions are usually prepared and plated. Concentration of samples is usually performed by filtration through a filter with pores small enough to retain the microorganisms. This way, the volume of the original sample can be reduced, so that the number of cells/ml increases to the 'countable' range. Since this procedure is rarely used in our classes, this exercise will focus on dilution theory. In order to make the calculation of the number of cells/ml in the original sample easier, dilutions are designed to be easy to handle mathematically. The most common dilutions are 1/10, 1/100, and 1/1000. Looking first at the 1/10 (or 10-1 ) dilution, it can be made by mixing 1 ml of sample with 9 ml of sterile dilution buffer. This gives the fraction: 1ml of sample 1ml 1ml = = = ---- = 0.1 = ml of sample + 9ml of buffer 1ml + 9ml 10ml 10 Some alternative methods of obtaining a 1/10 dilution are: 10ml of sample 10ml 10ml = = = ---- = 0.1 = ml of sample + 90ml of buffer 10ml + 90ml 100ml 10 -or- 0.1ml of sample = = = ---- = 0.1 = ml of sample + 0.9ml of buffer or- 0.5ml of sample = = ---- = ---- = 0.1 = ml of sample + 4.5ml of buffer

3 Instead, this is a 1/10 dilution of a 1/10 dilution. To arrive at the final dilution, multiply the second dilution by the first dilution: 1/10 X 1/10 = 1/100. If you made another 1/10 dilution from the second tube, you would have a 1/1000 final dilution. Try a problem: An overnight culture of Escherichia coli is used as a sample. One ml of this culture is added to a bottle containing 99ml of buffer. This dilution is mixed well (as all dilutions are!), and one ml of this is mixed in 9 ml of buffer. This second dilution is diluted by three successive 1/10 dilutions. The last (fifth) dilution is plated, i.e. 0.1 ml is plated on nutrient agar. After incubating the plate, 56 colonies are counted. How many colonyforming units were present per ml of E. coli culture? To solve this problem, try writing out the procedure. Then multiply the successive dilutions together (here is where scientific notation comes in handy, since it is easy to add the exponents without 'losing a zero') X X --- X --- X --- = ,000,000 OR 10-2 X 10-1 X 10-1 X 10-1 X 10-1 = 10-6 The number of colony-forming units per ml of the dilution can then be divided by the final dilution: 56 colonies divided by 10-6 = 560 colony-forming units/ml X ml plated = 5.6 X 10 8 colony-forming units/ml Note that the 0.1 ml that was plated is treated as another 1/10 dilution. Some microbiologists treat it as such in their computations rather than dividing the colony count by the number of milliliters plated, as done here. Whichever way it is done, the answer will be the same. The only way to understand dilution theory well is to practice it, so you should work the problems given in this supplement. The answers to the problems will be given to you by your lab TA in the next lab period. Before you start, review the basic rules of dilution theory: Since dilutions result in physically lowering the number of cells per ml in a solution, the calculations must mathematically raise the number of cells per ml. Therefore, remember that the final answer should be larger than the original colony count, not smaller. It is not possible to have negative exponents in the final number of colony-forming units/ml (a negative exponent implies that there is less than one colony-forming unit/ml). The number of ml of agar into which a sample is added is irrelevant, unless of course, it is further diluted. The number of ml plated is relevant. The dilution is determined by dividing the number of ml of sample added to the dilution buffer by the total of the ml of sample plus the ml of buffer. Successive dilutions are multiplied to find the total dilution. Plates with colonies on them should be used for the greatest accuracy in counting.

4 The number of colony-forming units/ml of original culture is calculated by either dividing the number of colony-forming units/ml of the dilution which gave colonies per plate by that dilution or by multiplying the number of colony-forming units/ml or the dilution which gave colonies per plate by the inverse of that dilution (i.e. the dilution factor). If more than one plate of a dilution has been prepared and is counted, the colony counts (of that dilution only) should be averaged. QUESTIONS 1. One ml of a water sample is added to 9 ml of sterile water. This is mixed well and further diluted by 4 successive 1/10 dilutions. One-tenth of a ml of each dilution is spread on a plate of nutrient agar. After incubation, the following data were obtained: Dilution used for plating Amount plated Colony counts after incubation first 1/ ml too many to count second 1/ ml 730 third 1/ ml 67 fourth 1/ ml 5 fifth 1/ ml 0 What was the number of colony-forming units/ml of the original water sample that were capable of growing on nutrient agar? 2. Three grams of soil were added to 27 ml of sterile water and shaken vigorously. After the soil particles settled, 0.1 ml of this was added to 9.9 ml of sterile water. This was further diluted by 4 successive 1/10 dilutions. One ml from the last dilution was used to prepare a pour plate. After incubation, 289 colonies were present on this plate. What was the number of colony-forming units/gram of the soil? 3. A bacterial culture was diluted and results from duplicate plates were obtained as indicated below. What was the number of colony-forming units/ml of the original culture? Dilution used Amount Colony counts after incubation for plating plated (results from duplicate plates) ml too many to count ml too many to count ml 321 ; ml 34 ; ml 6 ; ml 0 ; ml 0 ; 0 4. Ten grams of hamburger were added to 90 ml of sterile buffer. This was mixed well in a blender. Onetenth of a ml of this slurry was added to 9.9 ml of sterile buffer. After thorough mixing, this suspension was further diluted by successive 1/100 and 1/10 dilutions. One-tenth of a ml of this final dilution was plated onto Plate Count Agar. After incubation, 52 colonies were present. How many colony-forming units were present in the total 10 gram sample of hamburger?

5 5. Devise a scheme to prepare a 10-6 dilution on a plate using the least number of sterile water dilution tubes. 6. Devise a scheme to prepare 1/20, 1/40, and 1/80 dilutions of a disinfectant.

6 Some convenient conversions to remember: 10 0 = = = = = 10, = 100, = 1,000, = 10,000, = 100,000, = 1,000,000, = 10,000,000, = 0.1 = 1/ = 0.01 = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ = = 1/ Remember exponents are additive and fractions are multiplicative 10-1 x 10-1 x 10-1 x 10-1 = 10-4 which is the same as 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 = 1/10,000 and 10-1 x 10-2 x 10-3 x 10-4 = which is the same as 1/10 x 1/100 x 1/1000 x 1/10000 = 1/

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