# How to Work Microbiology Dilution Problems

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Dilutions are useful in science when making solutions or growing an acceptable number of bacterial colonies to count. There are three formulas used to work microbiology dilution problems: finding individual dilutions, finding serial dilutions, and finding the number of organisms in the original sample. ••• test tubes image by Paul Hill from Fotolia.com

To find a dilution of a single tube, use the formula: sample/(diluent + sample). The sample is the amount you are transferring into the tube, and the diluent is the liquid already in the tube. When you transfer 1 ml into 9 mls, the formula would be: 1/(1+9) = 1/10. This could also be written as 1:10. ••• blank mixing tubes image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com

After you have calculated the individual dilutions for each tube, multiply the dilutions when using serial dilutions. Serial dilutions are the culmination of a number of diluted tubes used in order to get smaller dilutions. When a sample diluted 1/100 is added to a sample diluted 1/10, the final dilution would be: (1/100) x (1/10) = 1/1000. ••• bacteria, image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com

Use this equation to determine the number of organisms in the original sample once you have found the dilution: number of colonies growing on plate x (1/volume used to put bacteria on plate) x (1/dilution). When a student uses 1ml on a plate from a tube diluted 1/100, and the plate grew 230 colonies, the formula would be: 230 x (1/1ml) x (1/(1/100)) = 23000 or 2.3 x 10^4.

#### References

• Microbiology Lab Manual TCCD South Campus; Chess, Kleyn, Bicknell, Brown, and Harley; 2009