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Culture Media
in Microbiology
The main types of culture media are:
1. Basic media
2. Enriched and enrichment media
3. Selective media
4. Differential media
5. Transport media
Basic Media
These are simple media such as nutrient agar and
nutrient broth, that will support the growth of microorganisms, which do not have special nutrient
requirements e.g. nutrient agar. They are often used in preparation of enriched media, to maintain the
stock cultures of controlled strains of bacteria and for subcultering pathogens from differential or selective
media prior to performing biochemical and serological identification tests.
Enriched and Enrichment Media
Enriched media are the artificial culture media that are enriched with whole blood, lyze blood, serum,
extra peptones, special extracts or vitamins to support the growth of pathogens which require additional
nutrients or growth stimulants e.g. blood agar, chocolate agar, trypton soya agar.
Enrichment media are liquid media that increase the number of pathogens due to the presence of certain
substances that discourage the multiplication of unwanted bacteria e.g. selenide F broth. This is used for
enrichment of Salmonella in faeces or urine. Brain heart infusion is used for blood culture specimens.
Selective Media
These are the media which contain substances that prevent or slow down the growth of microorganisms
other than the pathogens for which the media are intended e.g. xylene lysine deoxy cholate
Differential Media
These are the media to which indicators, dyes or other substances are added to differentiate
microorganisms. E.g. thiosulphate citrate bile salt sucrose (TCBS), Mac Conkey’s agar, cysteine lactose
electrolyte deficient (CLED). The indicator in Mac Conkey’s medium is phenol red and that in CLED is
bromothymol blue.
Transport Media
These are mostly semi-solid media that contain ingredients to prevent the overgrowth of commensals and
ensure the survival of aerobic and anaerobic pathogens when specimens cannot be cultured soon after
collection. Their use is particularly important when transporting microbiological specimens from health
centers to district microbiology lab e.g. Cary Blair medium for preserving enteric pathogens.
Nutrient Agar
It is a basic culture medium. Its ingredients are:
1. Peptones
2. Sodium chloride
3. Agar
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It does not support growth of certain Streptococci like group A and group B Streptococci, Pneumococci,
Neisseria, Haemophilus, etc.
Blood Agar
It is an enriched medium. On this medium, Staphylococci give golden color or whitish colonies, which may
be hemolytic. Group A and group B Streptococci give beta hemolytic colonies while pneumococci give
alpha hemolytic colonies. In this medium 7% whole blood is added to nutrient agar, after sterilization.
Chocolate Agar
When the blood agar is heated, RBCs are broken down and media becomes chocolate in color. This
medium facilitates growth of Neisseria, haemophilus and pneumococci.
Mac Conkey’s Agar
It is differential medium used to differentiate lactose fermenting bacteria from non-lactose fermenters.
Lactose fermenters form pink colonies while non-lactose fermenters give pale yellow colonies.
Phenol red is the indicator present in this medium.
Mac Conkey’s agar (left) and Crystal Mac Conkey’s agar (right)
CLED
It is used for isolation of urinary pathogens. Lactose fermenters give yellow orange colonies and non-
lactose fermenters form blue colored colonies. It is a selective as well as differential medium. Bromo
thymol blue is the indicator.
TCBS
It is a selective and differential medium for growth of Vibrio cholera which give yellow colored colonies
and other Vibrio species, e.g. Vibrio parahemolyticus, which gives green colored colonies.
It is an alkaline medium (pH >8.4)
Sabouraud Agar
It is a selective medium used for isolation of various fungi.
Robertson cooked meat Medium
It is a nutritious fluid broth used in enrichment, rapid growth and maintenance of microorganisms,
especially anaerobes.
Lowenstein Jensen Medium
It is a selective medium for growth of mycobacterium tuberculosis, which takes about 6-8 weeks for
growth and the colonies are rough and pale yellow. Ingredients include malachite green which acts as an
indicator and also inhibits the growth of other microorganisms.
Alkaline Peptone Water
It is an enrichment medium used for Vibrio cholera. It can also be used for transportation if time of
transportation is less than 10 hours.
Brain Heart Infusion
It is used for enrichment of blood specimen.
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