Types of culture media used in microbiology

 Types of culture media used in microbiology

On Consistency:

1. Solid Media. 

Advantages of solid media: 

(a) Bacteria may be identified by studying the colon y character, 

(b) Mixed bacteria can be separated. 

Solid media is used for the isolation  of  bacteria as pure culture. 

‘Agar’ is most commonly used to prepare solid media. 

Agar is polysaccharide extract obtained from seaweed. 

Agar is an ideal solidifying agent as it is : 

(a) Bacteriologically inert, i.e. no influence on bacterial growth,

(b) It remains solid at 37°C, and 

(c) It is transparent.

Liquid Media. 

It is used for profuse growth,

e.g.  blood culture in liquid media.  Mixed organisms cannot be separated.

On Chemical Composition  :

1. Routine Laboratory Media

2. Synthetic Media. These are chemically defined media prepared from pure chemical substances. It is used in research work.


These are classified into six types: 

(1) Basal media,

(2) Enriched media, 

(3) Selective

(4) Indicator media,

(5) Transport media, and 

(6) Storage media.


Basal media are those that may be used for growth (culture) of bacteria that do not need enrichment of the media. 

Examples: Nutrient broth, nutrient agar and peptone water. 

Staphylococcus and Enterobacteriaceae grow in these media.


The media are enriched usually by adding blood, serum or  egg. Examples: Enriched media are blood agar and Lowenstein-Jensen media. Streptococci grow in blood agar media.


These media favour th e growth of a particular bacterium by inhibiting the growth of undesired bacteria and allowing growth of desirable bacteria. 

Examples:  MacConkey agar, Lowenstein-Jensen media, tellurite media (Tellurite inhibits the growth of most of the throat organisms except diphtheria bacilli). 

Antibiotic may be added to a medium for inhibition.


An indicator is included in the medium. 

A particular organism causes change in the indicator, e.g. blood, neutral red, tellurite. 

Examples: Blood agar and MacConkey agar are indicator media. 


These media are used when specie-men cannot be cultured soon after collection. 

Examples: Cary-Blair medium, Amies medium, Stuart medium.


Media used for storing the bacteria for a long period of time. 

Examples: Egg saline medium, chalk cooked meat broth


Nutrient Broth. 

500 g meat, e.g. ox heart  is minced and mixed with 1 litre water.  

10  g peptone and 5 g sodium chloride are added, 

pH  is adjusted to 7.3. 


(1) As a basal media for the preparation of other media, 

(2) To study soluble products of bacteria.

Nutrient Agar. 

It is solid at 37°C. 2.5% agar is added in nutrient broth. It is heated at 100°C to melt the agar and then cooled. 

Peptone Water. 

Peptone 1%  and  sodium chloride 0.5%. 

It is used as base for sugar media and to test indole formation. 

Blood Agar. 

Most commonly used medium. 5- 10% defibrinated sheep or horse blood is added  to melted agar at 45-50°C.

Blood acts as an enrichment material and also as an indicator. 

Certain bacteria when grown in blood agar produce haemolysis around their  colonies. 

Certain bacteria produce no  haemolysis.  

Types of changes : 

beta haemolysis. The  colon y is surrounded by a clear zone of complete haemolysis, e.g. Streptococcus pyogenes is a beta   haemolytic streptococci, 

Alpha haemolysis. The colony is surrounded by a zone  of greenish discolouration due to formation of biliverdin, e.g. Viridans streptococci, 

Gamma haemolysis, or, No haemolysis. There is no change in the medium surrounding the  colony,

Chocolate Agar or Heated Blood agar:

Prepared by heating blood agar. It is used for culture of pneumococcus, gonococcus, meningo- coccus and Haemophilus. 

Heating the blood inactivates inhibitor of growths.

MacConkey Agar. 

Most commonly   used for enterobac-teriaceae. 

It contains agar, peptone, sodium chloride, bile salt, lactose and  neutral  red. 

It is a selective and indicator medium :

Selective as bile salt does not inhibit the growth of enterobactericeae but inhibits growth of many other bacteria.

Indicator medium as the colonies of bacteria that ferment lactose take a pink colour due to production of acid. 

Acid turns the  indicator neutral red to pink. 

These bacteria are called ‘lactose fermenter’, e.g. Escherichia coll. Colourless colon y indicates that lactose is  not fermented, i.e. the bacterium is non-lactose fermenter, e.g. Salmonella. Shigella, Vibrio.

Mueller Hinton Agar. 

Disc diffusion sensitivity tests for antimicrobial drugs should be carried out on this media as per WHO recommendation to promote reproducibility and comparability of results.

Hiss’s Serum Water Medium. 

This medium is used to study the fermentation reactions of bacteria which can not grow in peptone water sugar media,  e.g. pneumococcus, Neisseria, Corynebacterium.

Lowenstein-Jensen Medium. 

It is used  to culture tubercle bacilli. 

It contains egg, malachite green and glycerol.

Egg is an enrichment material which stimulates the growth of tubercle bacilli, 

Malachite green inhibits growth of organisms other than mycobacteria,

Glycerol promotes the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis but not Mycobacterium  bovis.

Dubos Medium. 

This liquid medium is used for tubercle bacilli. 

In this medium drug sensitivity of tubercle bacilli can be carried out. 

It contains ‘tween 80’, bovine serum albumin, casein hydrolysate, asparagin and salts. 

Tween 80 causes dispersed growth and bovine albumin causes rapid growth.

Loeffler Serum

Serum is used for enrichment. Diphtheria bacilli grow in this medium in 6 hours when the secondary bacteria do not grow. 

It is used for rapid diagnosis of diphtheria and to demonstrate volutin granules. 

It contains sheep, ox or horse serum. 

Tellurite Blood Agar. 

It is used as a selective medium for isolation of Cotynebacterium diphtheriae

Types of culture media used in microbiology Notes PDF

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