From Plants to Antibiotics

In this lesson, students perform a Kirby-Bauer assay to determine if a plant of their choice has antibacterial properties.

Students begin by exploring the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and considering how new antibiotics can be developed from natural products. In the lab portion, students extract the bioactive compounds from a plant sample they bring in, soak a filter paper disc in the plant extract, and plate the disc on LB agar with E. coli bacteria. After incubating the plate for 24 hours, students will see a circular “”zone of inhibition”” around any sample that prevented bacterial growth. This indicates the sample has antibacterial properties and could potentially be explored as a new antibiotic drug candidate.


Learning Objectives

  • Determine if a plant has antibacterial properties by extracting its bioactive compounds and performing a Kirby-Bauer assay.
  • Explain why antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem.


Prior Knowledge

  • Experience with micropipetting
  • Optional: Experience with bacteria culture on LB agar plates

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Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • LS4.D – Biodiversity and Humans
    Human beings are part of and depend on the natural world. Biodiversity…provides humans with renewable resources, such as food, medicines, and clean water.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Stability and Change

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