When Gaby Zane had an idea for her fifth grade science fair project, she had no idea she'd wind up having her results published in a medical journal. But that's exactly what's happened!
The article, entitled "Stuffed Animals in the Operating Room: A Reservoir of Bacteria with a Simple Solution," was published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics this spring, and highlights her findings regarding best methods for washing stuffed animals to make them safe enough to accompany children into the operating room, where risks for infections are highly managed.
She got the idea for her project by talking with her mom, Dr. Siobhan Murphy-Zane, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and decided to test her own stuffed animals for germs.
She used petri dishes and an incubator set up in her basement to culture the swabs she took off her favorite stuffed cat Sheena, and a couple of her brothers' stuffed animals. "They had a lot of bacteria."
Then she thought of ways to decrease the amount of bacteria. "I thought 'why not just wash them?'"
As it turns out, it really is that simple. "When we washed them, they had a 94 percent decrease in bacteria."
This is good news for kids who have to face scary operations. "Stuffed animals really help with staying calm, but they can carry lots of bacteria into the operating room." Now, thanks to Gaby's hunch and detailed research, they can take their beloved stuffed animals in with them. "You just have to throw them in the washer and dryer and that will get them pretty clean. Put them in a sealed plastic bag before you get to the operating room to make sure they stay sterile, and you'll be OK."
Her mom decided to share her findings with a colleague at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Jonathan Schoenecker, M.D., Ph.D., who had also been working on a similar study. He was able to include Gaby's results in his research paper, which was accepted by the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.
You can watch a news report featuring an interview with Gaby here [video autoplays].
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