Curious about how clean her eight-year-old son’s hands really were, Tasha Sturm decided to do a little experiment. The California mom used a Petri dish to find out how much bacteria kids come into contact with on a daily basis—and the gross results are now going viral.
Sturm, a microbiology lab tech, told TODAY that her son was always interested in the work she does (swabbing household items for germs) so in the spring of 2015, she let him try it out on himself. After playing outside with the family dog, she had the boy press his hand onto a Petri dish, which she then incubated at body temperature for one day.
The bacteria-covered photo that’s blowing up on social media is what the dish looked like after sitting out for a week.
What do all those colorful splotches mean? Sturm says that they’re all fairly common bacteria that we come into contact with in our everyday lives. The orange and yellow spots are likely yeast while the smaller white circles are Staphylococcus. As for the large white splotch in the palm area, she believes it’s Bacillus, a bacteria often found in soil. “That one colony probably equals several million bacteria,” Sturm told Business Insider.
And while the resulting photo certainly looks disgusting, Sturm says parents shouldn’t freak out. “It’s normal stuff that we’re exposed to every day. The skin protects us from a lot of the bad stuff out there,” she explained to TODAY. “The take-home message is that to have a healthy immune system, you’ve got to be exposed to stuff.”
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