Tuesday 11 July 2017
WHAT might be found lurking among the great unwashed at one of the UK’s leading music festivals?
Well, scientists from the University of Salford are about to find out by joining The 1975, Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes at Latitude this week (July 13-16).
Microbiologists Drs Joe Latimer, Sarah Withers and Ian Goodhead are the first to sequence bacterial DNA at a UK festival, swabbing fans and offering them analyses of the range of bugs about their person.
The Salford trio will set up as ‘mobile laboratory’ at the festival site in Suffolk, and they promise personalised insight into the trillions of organisms which live in and on us.
Dr Latimer, who won a Wellcome grant to carry out the work, said: “We are lucky enough to be among the first research groups to own a ‘Nanopore MinION’, a USB pen-drive-sized DNA sequencer that is run directly from a laptop.
“It allows us to take DNA sequencing out into the public and what better venue than a major music festival.”
Joe says festival-goers will have the chance to be ‘sampled’ and to see how DNA can uncover the diversity of life that they harbour.
“It’ll be interesting to see the bacteria people have picked up, especially at an outdoor festival and we believe people will be fascinated by their bacterial world and how they it can threaten or preserve health!”
He added: “We tend to associate going to festivals as getting down and dirty and also bacteria as being something we need to clean or kill. Neither of these things are necessarily true, and hopefully this human experiment at Latitude will put things in perspective.”
Tania Harrison, Festival Director said: “I’m really excited to present the Wellcome Trust programme to Latitude including the Read Your DNA Live event.
For the last four years, we have partnered Wellcome to create events that explore how science touches all our lives, reaching new audiences and finding new ways to engage people with ideas and learning.”
Joe, Sarah and Ian will be joined by four PhD students in their mobile lab in the festival’s Faraway Forest, and the team will also take to the stage on the closing day to share funny stories and anecdotes from the world of bacteria.