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Trainee Technologist
Clinical Laboratory

Definition, purpose/importance
History of culture media
Growth pattern of bacteria
Classification of culture media

Microbiological culture
Method of cultivating microbial
organisms by letting them
reproduce in predetermined
culture media under controlled
laboratory conditions.


have to be grown (cultured) for

them to be identified and subsequent
clinical diagnosis.
By appropriate procedures they have to
be grown separately (isolated) on culture
media and obtained as pure for study.
Bacteria have to be cultured in order to
obtain antigens from developing
serological assay for vaccines.
Certain genetic studies and
manipulations of the cells also need that
bacteria be cultured in vitro.

History of culture medias

Louis Pasteur used simple broths
made up of urine or meat extracts.
Robert Koch realized the importance
of solid media and used potato
pieces to grow bacteria. It was on the
suggestion of Fannie Eilshemius, wife of
Walther Hesse (who was an assistant to
Robert Koch) that agar was used to
solidify culture media.


Before the use of agar, attempts were

made to use gelatin as solidifying
agent. Gelatin had some inherent
It existed as liquid at normal
incubating temperatures (35-37oC)
Digested by certain bacteria

Used for preparing solid medium
Obtained from seaweeds.
No nutritive value
Not affected by the growth of the
Melts at 98oC & sets at 42oC
2% agar is employed in solid medium

Bacterial Growth Curve

During typical bacteria growth (growth cycle)
bacteria cell divide by binary fission and
their mass and number increase in an
exponential manners. Bacterial growth in
culture can be separated into at least four
distinct phases.

Bacterial Growth Curve

1. Lag phase
This is period of intense physiologic adjustment
involving the induction of new enzymes and the
synthesis and assembly of ribosome. In lag phase
and during this phase there occur
1. increase in size of cells
2. increase in metabolic rate
3. adaptation to new environment and
necessary enzymes.


The length of lag phase depend upon

a. Type of bacteria.
b. Better the medium, shorter the lag phase.
c. The phase of culture from which inoculation in
d. Size or volume of inoculum.
e. Environmental factors like temperature.

2. Logarithmic (Exponential) phase

In logarithmic phase the bacterial cell
start dividing and their number increase by
geometric progression with time. During this
a. bacteria have high rate of metabolism
b. bacteria are more sensitive to antibiotics
c. rate of penetration of the medium it
depends on the concentration of material in
the media

3. Stationary phase
In stationary phase after some time a stage
comes when rate of multiplication and death
becomes almost equal it may be due to
a. depletion of nutrient
b. accumulation of toxic products and
sporulation may occur during this stage.

4. Decline or death phase

In decline (death) phase, during this phase
population decreases due to death of cells the
factors responsible are
a. nutritional exhaustion
b. toxic accumulation
c. autolysis enzymes




Based on their consistency

a) solid medium
b) liquid medium
c) semi solid medium
Based on the constituents/
a) simple medium
b) complex medium
c) synthetic or defined medium
d) Special media

Special media

Enriched media
Enrichment media
Selective media
Indicator media
Differential media
Transport media

III. Based

on Oxygen requirement
- Aerobic media
- Anaerobic media

Solid media contains 2% agar

Colony morphology, pigmentation, hemolysis
can be appreciated.
Eg: Nutrient agar, Blood agar
Liquid media no agar.
For inoculum preparation, Blood culture, for
the isolation of pathogens from a mixture.
Eg: Nutrient broth
Semi solid medium 0.5% agar.

Simple media / basal media

- Eg: NB, NA
- NB consists of peptone, yeast
extract, NaCl,
- NB + 2% agar = Nutrient agar

Complex media
Media other than basal media.
They have added ingredients.
Provide special nutrients
Synthetic or defined media
Media prepared from pure chemical
substances and its exact composition
is known
Eg: peptone water 1% peptone +
0.5% NaCl in water

Enriched media

Substances like blood, serum, egg

are added to the basal medium.
Used to grow bacteria that are
exacting in their nutritional needs.
Eg: Blood agar, Chocolate agar

Blood agar

Chocolate agar

Enrichment media
Liquid media used to isolate
pathogens from a mixed
Media is incorporated with
inhibitory substances to
suppress the unwanted

Selenite F Broth for the

isolation of Salmonella, Shigella
Alkaline Peptone Water for
Vibrio cholerae

Selective media
The inhibitory substance is added to a
solid media.
Mac Conkeys medium for gram
negative bacteria
TCBS for V.cholerae
LJ medium M.tuberculosis
Wilson and Blair medium S.typhi
Potassium tellurite medium
Diphtheria bacilli

Mac Conkeys medium


Potassium Tellurite media

LJ media

Indicator media
These media contain an indicator
which changes its colour when a
bacterium grows in them.

Blood agar
Mac Conkeys medium
Christensens urease medium

Urease medium

Differential media
A media which has substances
incorporated in it enabling it to
distinguish between bacteria.
Eg: Mac Conkeys medium
Distinguish between lactose
fermenters & non lactose fermenters.

Lactose fermenters Pink colonies

Non lactose fermenters colourless

Transport media
Media used for transporting
the samples.
Delicate organisms may not
survive the time taken for
transporting the specimen
without a transport media.

Stuarts medium non

nutrient soft agar gel
containing a reducing agent
Buffered glycerol saline
enteric bacilli

Anaerobic media

These media are used to grow anaerobic

Eg: Robertsons cooked meat medium,
Thioglycolate medium.