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This is absolute genius.
Dive into a world of action, adventure and explosions!
Each show we'll introduce you to a different genius...
An amazing person who had a genius idea which shaped the world.
And they will inspire us to come
up with our own genius idea at the end of each show.
-But will our idea be any good?
-Will it be any good?
BOTH: It will be Absolute Genius!
On today's show,
we investigate the invisible world of germs...
What's all that? What's the black stuff?
From bacteria-ridden bodies to infectious vomiting.
And how one man's genius discovery led to a miracle of medicine.
Today we're going to introduce you to a man who made a genius
discovery that saved millions of lives.
ON PA: Next! Next!
He discovered something so special,
it changed the world of medicine for ever.
Who would think that a tiny pill could be so powerful?
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the man who discovered penicillin...
Sir Alexander Fleming.
Are you infectious? You look infectious.
Inspired by his genius idea, we're going to be creating
our own genius idea later on in the show.
We will attempt to turn billions of germs into priceless works of art!
Whatever you do, don't touch it.
But first, let's find out how Fleming changed the world.
Fleming was born the son of a Scottish farmer,
more than 130 years ago.
He moved to London when he was 13,
and ended up studying medicine and bacteria.
It was here at St Mary's Hospital right in the centre of London
town where he worked.
And that was the exact window that he looked out of -
his lab, the birthplace of penicillin.
Come on, we're going in.
In those days, doctors knew some bacteria could cause disease,
but the only way to fight harmful germs was to keep everything
clean and sterile.
Even the smallest wounds could pick up lethal infections.
And a quarter of surgery patients died from flesh-eating gangrene
and other horrible bugs!
Then, in 1928, Fleming discovered something that could actually
kill harmful bacteria.
Which way is it?
To explain, genius helper Kevin Brown,
curator of the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum.
He's preserved Fleming's original lab, down to the finest detail.
-You all right, Kevin?
-Pleased to meet you.
Shame he didn't invent the lift, isn't it?
Yeah, but it keeps you fit.
You expected more, kind of, bubbling test tubes and more
of a scientific environment, but it's actually pretty basic in here.
It's basic. It's cluttered, it's messy, but it was how he liked it.
So he spent hours and hours in this room playing with germs,
but how exactly did he discover penicillin?
Well, he'd been on holiday, came back after six weeks and there was
some Petri dishes he'd been working on, with bacteria in them.
And he was checking it - something on it caught his attention.
Have a look at this modern replica of his Petri dish.
You'll notice that it's become contaminated by a mould.
That didn't interest him, what do you think did?
There's no bacteria round it.
And that's what interested Fleming.
Ah, because it's killed it!
Amazingly, something in the mould
had killed off the surrounding bacteria!
Fleming went on to call it penicillin.
How important was this whole discovery, anyway?
It changed medicine completely.
For the first time, you really had a way of fighting germs
and the diseases they caused.
ALL that from a bit of mould!
Fleming's genius idea was the discovery of penicillin.
He spotted how a stray bit of fungus growing in his Petri dish
killed the bacteria surrounding it.
It was a breakthrough in the fight against infection and led to the
world's first effective antibiotic medicines, saving millions of lives.
After a few years, scientists worked out a way of producing
penicillin on a massive scale.
It was hailed a miracle drug, and was used to save lives
on the battlefields of World War II -
where infections were easily spread.
Some bacteria have now developed a resistance to penicillin
and other antibiotics that followed.
But they're still saving lives all over the world,
and curing bacterial illnesses like skin and chest infections.
-So, how does penicillin work?
This is Fran.
She just loves experimenting...
to help explain the ideas of our geniuses.
And she's sure to pop up just when you really need her.
Oh, look at the bacteria on them plums.
Why are you in this strange person's garden eating plums with
an empty paddling pool?
-Cos Fran's there as well.
-All right, Fran.
-How does penicillin work?
Before we look at how penicillin works,
you guys need to know how bacteria grows and divides.
And how does it grow?
For bacteria to divide, when it grows as a family unit,
it doesn't have children,
instead what it does is it splits itself into two.
-On their own?
-Completely on their own.
-They just multiply?
So this represents just one bacterium,
and when this wants to grow as a family, it splits into two.
-Eh, scientist and magician!
And then, each of those splits so you end up with...
four. Four then becomes...
Eight! Eight! Four times table...
Each time it's doubling...
THEY TALK OVER EACH OTHER
Bacteria can do this as fast as every 20 minutes,
so bear in mind, bacteria don't have a brain,
I was thinking, can you guys do this as fast as bacteria?
You can see how a colony of bacteria can easily get out of control.
They just keep dividing, every 20 minutes, and, unlike us,
they never get tired.
-Will you two stop mucking about!?
It was good fun and we've got lots of balloons,
but what's all this got to do with penicillin?
For bacteria to divide like this, what they need to do
is grow new outer shells to cover the new bacteria.
What penicillin does is stop that new outer shell forming properly,
so it means bacteria can't divide.
So it makes the bacteria bigger and bigger until it's at bursting point.
-Normally, with bacteria, they burst by themselves,
but I thought it would be a whole lot more fun if...
Yeah! ..if you guys were maybe the penicillin and cause the bursting.
We are human penicillin!
Clearly, our double attack does not work.
Time for a more individual approach.
-Off you go, then.
-It's more your size.
-More my size!
He's done it! Burst the balloon
and killed the bacteria - just like Fleming's penicillin.
That bacteria is dead, OK?
And that, more or less, is how penicillin works.
Hang on! Why didn't you do that before?
He may have been trying to kill them,
but really, Fleming LOVED bacteria.
He even grew pictures out of them, in different shapes and colours.
We need to go and explore Fleming's amazing world of germs.
-Yes, we do. But where are we going to do that?
-Don't be sorry, where we going to do it?
I'm very sorry too. Where we going to do that?
-Ha! See what we did there!? I love Surrey.
Surrey, home to Box Hill,
the oldest untouched area of natural woodland in the UK.
..genius helper Dr Simon Park,
a molecular microbiologist at the University of Surrey.
We've been on a journey and so far we've found out about penicillin
and how it kills bacteria, but what is bacteria?
Bacteria are very, very small living cells that are
so small that you can't see them with the eye.
They grow in us, and on us...
So bacteria are everywhere?
You're covered in about 100,000 bacteria per square
centimetre of your skin.
I presume bacteria are bad cos you always see
adverts for cleaning products saying it kills bacteria.
No. The vast majority are harmless and even beneficial
and it's only the very, very small fraction that are harmful to us.
We do know that they're teeny-tiny, but can we have a look at some?
If you want to put a small dollop of spit onto these slides.
Here we go.
You're not wrong there, Dom.
This is Dom's first.
Let's find Dom's bacteria.
-Ah, what is that!?
-It's like a jellyfish.
That's a piece of your cheek, and then the bacteria are much,
much smaller than that.
So you see these little dots here moving around?
They're the bacteria that live...
Why are they moving around?
Because they can move towards things that they like
and away from things that they don't like.
-So they are alive?
-They're alive, living, yep.
Now time for my close up.
What's all the black stuff?
Why's he got black stuff in there?
It looks like he hasn't cleaned his teeth this morning,
there's loads of bits of food...
Looks like Planet Earth.
-It's in my mouth.
-They're all living in my mouth.
Oh, good grief!
So bacteria are everywhere - in, and ON - our bodies,
and most of them are harmless, or good for us.
They might be invisible, but when they start growing in colonies,
they start revealing themselves.
Time to see what's growing on us.
So we just put body parts in this?
Any part you want.
We're taking swabs of our feet, ears, and hands to compare
how much invisible bacteria is lurking on our skin.
Right then, what do we do now?
I'll put them in the incubator, leave them for four days
and I'll send you the results.
Who do you think will be the germiest?
While we wait for the results, here are some top facts about bacteria.
It's the genius top five!
At five - every time you flush,
it can send toilet germs FLYING up to two metres away!
Far enough to reach your toothbrush. So keep a lid on it!
At four - the kitchen's a stomping ground for germs.
The average chopping board has more than twice the amount of poo
bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Three - bacteria are older than dinosaurs.
It's thought they were the first living
organisms on Earth around three billion years ago.
At two - this tough lot can thrive in conditions
that would kill a human.
From the hottest rocks deep within the Earth's surface,
to the coldest mountain peaks.
Some bacteria can even live on radioactive waste!
And at one - the human body has 100 trillion good bacteria,
most of them living in your gut.
They help your body break down and absorb food
and work to keep those bad bacteria at bay. Good work, chaps!
-Thank you so much.
Let me just take a few moments to thank my family...
The results are in!
Here is the bacteria that Dr Park grew out of our body parts,
but who is going to be the germiest?
-Look at that.
Let's show them to you.
Look at the state of them.
We don't know whose is whose yet, but I've got a good idea.
Reveal - three, two, one...
Look at his ear! You dirty-eared boy!
That's not my ear!
All bacteria that would be found on the skin.
However, there is much more than on Dick's ear,
suggesting that Dick is cleaner or Dom's not washed as well.
Onto the feet.
-This is going to be interesting.
-Wait a minute.
-Green matter, ladies and gentlemen.
-I don't like where this is going!
There are many thousands of bacteria on the foot,
which are found on most people.
The bacteria spreading by the heel is commonly found in soil.
Ah, soil, cos I do lots of gardening, cos I'm a gardener.
-There we go, then. And finally.
-Can't wait for this. That's clean.
I don't think we even need to ask, do we?
That's my hand.
But that's that soil stuff again.
And it says "The spread at the top of then hand is from bacteria
"found in soil." Isn't that weird?
It still means you don't wash. So the results are clear.
-Ladies and gentlemen, the most germiest person in this double act...
-On the outside...
-The most bacteria-ridden...
-On the outside...
-I'm just outdoorsy.
But what about the bacteria that cause nasty infections?
The bad stuff penicillin destroys? We need to investigate.
So we've come to the Peak District where there also just
so happens to be this building.
Yes, the UK's Health and Safety Laboratory!
Scientists here research how germs and infections are spread.
Meet genius helper
and microbiologist Catherine Makison Booth,
inventor of Vomiting Larry...
Part mannequin, part machine with a cylinder for a stomach
and a spraying range of three metres.
When this boy barfs, he contaminates everything around him.
OK, so this is where Larry lives.
-What, in this room?
-In this room.
It says on there "Warning - biohazard."
-There's no biohazard in there at the moment.
-Are you sure?
It's just water with a fluorescent marker in it.
The idea is, if you've got an infection you vomit,
in some cases, and it goes everywhere.
And we want to identify how far it goes
so we can look at infection transmission.
So, basically the UV light enables you to see how far the germs go,
cos the human eye can only see where the physical stuff goes?
-What kind of diseases are you talking about?
We get stomach-type disease - gastro-intestinal infections.
Things like Norovirus, campylobacter, which is
the biggest cause of food poisoning.
And they make you projectile vomit.
Sounds like Larry might have a bad case of food poisoning.
Harmful germs like salmonella
and E. coli can live on meat if it isn't stored or cooked properly.
Roast dinner, anyone?
And once you're sick, your vomit can spread those germs even further.
To show the infectious power of Larry's vomit, one of us
will face him. Head on.
Hang on a minute - how high does he vomit?
Cos I'm pretty small,
it'll get me straight in the face. Surely it'd be best on him.
I'll do it.
He's a good lad. Good boy.
Right, I need these, I think.
You all right, Larry?
You feeling any better?
When he vomits, where's it going to hit him?
Probably going to hit his legs and his stomach, really.
Is it? Kneel down.
Trust me, Cat said so.
In an attempt to block those nasty germs from spreading,
Dick will use his body as a human shield.
All right? Can we have the lights off, please?
OK, blowing chunks in three, two, one...
Dick is covered.
But so is the entire room.
Larry's germs - only visible under UV light -
have made it up to three metres away.
Luckily, it's only water.
If this was real vomit,
each globule would be teeming with invisible, infectious bacteria.
In future, Larry, be sick in the loo. Not on your mates!
What a mess.
Look at it in here. Larry, you got it everywhere.
That just goes to prove that germs can travel far further than
the naked eye can see.
And now, Dick is going to have a rave. Night.
Throw some shapes, Dicky boy.
Right, that's enough.
We've learned how Fleming discovered penicillin,
exposed the invisible horrors living all over Dom...
And seen germs in all their shapes and colours.
Fleming even created pictures with them, and that has inspired us.
It's time to reveal our genius idea.
But no paint, no modelling clay
but we're going to use bacteria and fungi.
Yes, germ art. Here's the plan.
Our genius idea to create our very own germ art
for display at one of the UK's leading art galleries.
Our challenge - to make images of our faces,
grown entirely out of bacteria and fungi.
Our problem - if it doesn't work, we'll have no exhibition,
and a public slating from the art critics!
To help us with the designs, it's genius helper Mike Fischetti,
from Deadly Art.
He's going to help us turn this picture into a stencil,
which will become the basis for our germy portraits.
So first thing, I'm going to take that photo
and turn it into a black and white one.
And then we're going to up the contrast and the brightness to make
sure that all the bright highlights and all the dark shadows all pop out.
I'm going to blow up your faces individually, so there's Dick's face.
It's amazing how it's recognisable as his face,
but it's just a selection of shapes now.
Exactly. The same with yours. You're going to love this.
-I look like I've been in a Rocky movie.
-So I've got Dom's face.
And I've got Dick's face.
I'm not messing with you, you look hard!
What do you want us to do with them?
I'm going to take some acetate
and one of you can help by tracing your face.
And over here, grab a scalpel
and I've already traced out Dom's face, so we can cut it out together.
When we've got all these bits cut out, we're going to layer them
onto the agar jelly and then we're going to put bacteria on all
the big blocky bits.
If it works, it's going to be an amazing piece of bacteria pop art.
How do you think we're doing, Flem?
Now we've got the stencils,
we're ready to bring out the real stars of the piece -
our two types of germs - Bacillus bacteria, commonly found in soil,
and Penicillium fungi, the mould at the heart of Fleming's discovery.
What do we need to do?
First of all, we need to put some antibiotics on the back
to prevent any other bacteria
growing from our hands and the environment.
So it's keeping all the lines nice and clean?
-To make sure the bacteria doest spread outside the image.
Yes, that's right.
The area that we're putting the antibiotics onto
now, are they the black or the white bits of the image?
The negative space, the space that isn't going to show up.
They're going to be the colour of whatever jelly you have.
Oh, OK, so the main bit of our faces.
-So we turn it back over and place it in?
You're going to line it up with that corner over there.
OK. So you ready?
Just go straight down the lines. It's like hanging wallpaper.
No air bubbles, mate.
OK, spin it round so you can have a look.
You can see very clearly that the acetate here, that we're not
going to touch and that you can see the agar, which is
the jelly substance, we're now going to paint the bacteria.
Going to have a big, mouldy head.
How does this work? What's actually going to happen during the process?
The cells that you're putting on there will grow and multiply
into colonies and they're the things you'll be able to see.
Whilst you can't see the individual cells at the moment,
you'll be able to see them once they've grown over a few days.
We put them in what we call incubators, so they're like ovens.
How many days? How long do you have to leave it for?
Two to three days and then they'll grow up.
Is this going to work?
We don't actually know for sure.
You could end up with monkey faces.
No change there.
Cat, we're going to leave these in your capable hands, so no pressure.
But we need fungi and bacteria all over our faces in just
a couple of days, cos they're going to be
part of an art exhibition in Manchester, all right?
-Is it going to work?
Meanwhile, here's a not-so-genius thing to do with germs.
It's The Not So Genius Idea.
In 1892, the famous German scientist Max Von Pettenkofer tried to
prove that, on their own, the germs that cause cholera are harmless.
he drank a test tube full of the stuff - in front of an audience.
And was he right?
Of course not - this is The Not So Genius Idea!
He ended up with a bad case of the runs.
So this is it, the day has finally arrived.
We've done a lot of hard work with some amazing experts,
so should we go and see our mouldy faces?
Let's go and meet the critics.
We've chosen Manchester Art Gallery for our exhibition.
Steeped in history, it houses a world-class art collection,
and attracts more than 400,000 visitors every year.
But this is the first time actual germs have been allowed on display.
Our exhibition has drawn quite a crowd.
And although our two types of germs are harmless,
we suggest this lot don't get too close.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming.
We're about to reveal to you our germ art.
You'll have never seen anything like this before.
This is our tribute to Sir Alexander Fleming, who is the man who
discovered penicillin and he was also a lover of germ art.
He was one of the first to do it and this is our tribute to him.
Ladies and gentlemen, please, welcome fungal Dick and Dom.
It's now open.
Do, please, come forward, have a look,
but whatever you do, don't touch it.
Don't smell it either.
They've taken three days to grow.
Dick - a real beauty of Bacillus bacteria.
And Dom - fungi features grown from Penicillium,
the same mould at the centre of Fleming's genius discovery
all those years ago.
They might not be worth billions of pounds -
but they contain billions of germs.
So far, the comments I've heard are,
"Ew, that's disgusting."
And, "Oh, it stinks."
Charming, isn't it? After all that hard work.
I think they have pulled it off excellently.
What I would have liked to have seen was
a bit of finger painting with bacteria.
When I go home I'll beg my mum, "Can we go bacteria painting, please?"
Our art seems to have gone down well,
but what does the gallery's curator, Kate Jesson, think?
You can certainly tell which one's Dick and which one's Dom,
and I guess with the choice of making a portrait out of germs,
you've got a sense of their character too.
We've explored Fleming's passion for bacteria...
Learned how his genius penicillin
attacks the germs that make us sick...
And, inspired by Fleming's germ paintings,
we've created a mouldy old pair of masterpieces.
There we have it. We've been on a pretty incredible journey
and achieved something quite special.
You've heard what the critics think,
but what about the godfather of germ art?
Your paintings stink!
Sir Alexander Fleming, you are an absolute genius.
-What do you mean, "Ta-ra"?
Take me with you!
I'm not staying here on my own, am I?
Argh! Smacked me in the face!
What are you doing?
-Let me get it straight!
What's all that? What's all the black stuff?
THEY ALL LAUGH