I would like to measure the surface density of Staphylococcus bacteria and Rhinoviruses (only those two, to be specific) within my home. What's the cheapest way?

The textbook procedure is to:

  • rub a clean wet cotton swab on the surface in a controlled way
  • dip the swab into a clean agar (or some living media to detect viruses?) dish
  • incubate the dish
  • "look for genetic patterns from special enzyme reactions".

Is it possible to do the last step at home? Or, is there some easier way if I only care about Staphylococcus bacteria or Rhinoviruses?

  • $\begingroup$ What sort of budget do you have in mind? A quick Google using the search terms "Staphylococcus home test kit" returns many kits, the top hit costs $64. There are bound to be other kits that can detect other pathogens. $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    Aug 30 '12 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe $500 for 100 samples. That $64 basically gets you a swab and envelope for one sample, so it sounds expensive (and doesn't include Rhinovirus). $\endgroup$
    – bobuhito
    Aug 30 '12 at 18:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Use care if you incubate at home - some bacteria in small quantity are low risk however, if you happen to incubate a contagin to colony size it could be dangerous indeed. I saw this first hand with a fellow student who had recently recovered from a pneumonia bout - we had MASSIVE quantities of those and went straight to the lab steralization phase upon discovery. $\endgroup$ Sep 4 '12 at 18:58

For anyone getting ideas

S. aureus and Rhinovirus are risk class 2 infectious substances that should only be handled in a BSL or containment level 2 environment. Your only feasible step here is swab, seal, and send to a lab that can handle it.


There are some kits available to detect the presence of S. aureus on surfaces using agglutination factors like This one. These kits tends to be worth 70$+ though and they do not in any way quantify, only detect.

To have quantity results you would need to respect a protocol for swabbing a specific area and then have a lab do the testing for isolation and quantification of Staph.

Rhinoviruses on the other hand need more advanced techniques to detect and quantify, like PCR, and for this you need lab equipement which are costly.

There is always ways to send samples to labs for them to test but this is a costly solution.


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