It’s been a busy 3 days here in Atlanta. My talk Tuesday was well-received, I have lots of new ideas for future projects, and I’ll have posts on the conference itself starting, hopefully, this afternoon (last night was family time, so no posting). In the meantime, I’m writing up the manuscript for the study I presented and I thought I’d ask for some input with one small portion.

The study itself is a sampling of swine for bacterial carriage. On the first farm we headed out to (and by “we” I, of course, mean my trusty graduate student), we only had on hand as many swabs as we were going to use–no extras. Swine aren’t always very cooperative, and one swab ended up getting contaminated .

So, how would you write this up? Of course in the end I’ll have to go with something dry, academic and boring, but I’m sure y’all can come up with something much more creative…


  1. #1 Joe
    March 20, 2008

    If you can distinguish a “contaminated” swab from one that has merely been applied to a pig; that is impressive. Seriously, though, if you are asking a question- I don’t see enough info for me to formulate a suggestion.

  2. #2 NJ
    March 20, 2008

    I’m guessing you aren’t at the library conference at Georgia Tech that my wife is at…

  3. #3 Viral Pharm
    March 20, 2008

    Several questions:

    1. Which end of the swine are you taking samples from?
    2. What sort of bacteria are you culturing, anerobic? coliforms? etc.
    3. Are you doing quantitative measurements?
    4. Are you collecting swabs of the same animal over time?
    5. Are you collecting environmental samples for comparision?
    6. Are you doing this for ecology study or for exploring pathogenic bacteria carriage or for antibiotic resistance surveillance?

    There is not a lot of information for suggestions. I did some of this before for viruses from the tail end. Interesting outcomes.

  4. #4 Tara C. Smith
    March 20, 2008

    Nope, not at the library conference.

    “Contaminated” as in “touched surfaces other than the pig’s nose.” The pig jerked and knocked the swab out of said grad student’s hand, and it fell on the ground, making it unusable. (Even if we had isolated the bacterium we were looking for from the swab, we wouldn’t know if it had come from the pig or the floor).

  5. #5 Tara C. Smith
    March 20, 2008


    Don’t overthink! I was just looking for some cute quips rather than actual academic prose, but to answer your questions:

    1) I just mentioned this in the previous comment, but they’re nasal swabs.


    3) Nope. There’s an enrichment step, so just presence or absence.

    4) Not for this study. Later, hopefully.

    5) Not for this study. Later, hopefully.

    6) The latter two.

  6. #6 Viral Pharm
    March 20, 2008

    Cute quips:

    1. How many cigarettes do they smoke a day?
    2. Are they suffering from bird flu infection?
    3. How often do they go for a swim at the local pool?

    These are lines surely give you the attention of the press. You mean you do not encourage your grad students to think? I am surprised given the highly academic and excellent discussion you have at your site. Perhaps you don’t want to give out too much information due to concerns on competition.

  7. #7 nico
    March 20, 2008

    “one pig was decidedly uncooperative and outwitted the grad student, contaminating the swab.”

  8. #8 Joe
    March 20, 2008

    “One pig, unclear on the concept, helpfully tried to swab the floor.”

    “One pig, obviously insulted by the concept, …”

    “One pig, concerned about the cleanliness of the swab, rejected it.”

    Stick with me, I’ve got a million of them … god, I kill myself. Hat tip to nico.

  9. #9 Mother Pig
    March 20, 2008

    Don’t overthink! I was just looking for some cute quips rather than actual academic prose

    How about, “I was just looking to earn my keep, not trying to live up to standards of academic excellence or practical utility”?

  10. #10 Ninja pig
    March 20, 2008

    One pig objected to having the silly looking grad student pick his nose since that pig prefers Kleenex extra soft tissues.

    One pig decided that the muck that it currently resides in would be much more interesting to study, thereby refusing the swab.

    One pig decided it was time for a little payback so it applied some Pig Ninja moves.

  11. #11 idlemind
    March 20, 2008

    Student swiftly swabbing swine snouts seeking samples sustained surprise soil specimen.

  12. #12 gary
    March 20, 2008

    How about “Grad student goes for poke in a pig, ends up with pig in a poke”.

  13. #13 boomer0127
    March 20, 2008

    swab falls on the dirt.
    equivocal results loom.
    bug from pig or ground?

    I think that’s 5-7-5. You can’t go wrong with Haiku.

  14. #14 ElkMountainMan
    March 21, 2008

    Fine idea, boomer. Here’s one in the cooler style (albeit spell-checked):

    Infects all, kills all?
    No? Swab is pointless. Germ is

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