Bismuth Sulphite Agar ideal for the isolation or Salmonella species

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Salmonella on Bismuth sulfite agar MLTGEEKS

Bismuth Sulphite Agar Medium is a grow medium recommended for the selective isolation of Salmonellae from faeces, urine, sewage and other materials

This growth medium is prepared in accordance with USP  and is employed for the isolation and preliminary identification of Salmonella Typhi and other Salmonellae from pathological materials, sewage, water, food and other products. It is a modification of Wilson and Blair medium

Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium typically grow as black colonies having a rabbit eye colonies characteristics with a surrounding metallic sheen.

Salmonella Paratyphi A instead grow as light green colonies. This growth medium also favors use of larger inoculum and heavily contaminated samples as compared to other selective media, as it has unique inhibitory action towards gram-positive and coliform organisms.

The medium may be inhibitory to some strains of Salmonella species and therefore should not be used as the sole selective medium for these organisms.

Shigella species are mostly inhibited on Bismuth sulphite agar and also some Salmonellae like Salmonella  Sendai, Salmonella Berta, Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Abortus are equally inhibited. Proteus species are inhibited but few strains give dull green or brown colonies with metallic sheen.

Principle of Bismuth Sulphite Agar Medium

  • Brilliant green and bismuth sulphite incorporated into the medium inhibit the intestinal gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria
  • Peptic digest of animal tissue, pancreatic digest of casein and beef extract are rich source for supplying essential nutrients for growth of the organism.
  • The fermentable source of carbohydrate in this medium is dextrose, which provides energy for enhanced microbial growth.
  • Phosphates incorporated in the medium act as a good buffering agent.
  • The bismuth ions are reduced to metallic bismuth, which impart the metallic sheen around the colonies.
  • Sulphite is reduced to black ferric sulphide giving the black colour with release of H2S.
Also read  PYR Broth Test and Disc method For Steptococcus pyogenes

Composition of Bismuth Sulphite Agar Medium

The following ingredients are used for the composition Bismuth sulphite agar

Pancreatic digest of casein5.000
Beef extract5.000
Peptic digest of animal tissue5.000
Sodium phosphate4.000
Ferrous sulphate0.300
Bismuth sulfite indicator8.000
Brilliant green0.025
Final pH at temperature 25°C7.6±0.2

How to Prepare Bismuth Sulphite Agar Medium

The preparation of Bismuth sulphite agar depends on each laboratory workload or the numbers of culture plates available. Anyway, note that a standard Petri dish is equivalent to 20ml when completely poured.

  • Start by suspending 52.32 grams in 1000 ml purified/ distilled water.
  • Heat to boiling to dissolve the medium completely.

DO NOT OVERHEAT OR STERILIZE IN AUTOCLAVE or by fractional sterilization because overheating may destroy the selectivity of the medium.

  • Transfer to a water bath maintained at about 50°C .

The sensitivity of the medium depends largely upon uniform dispersion of precipitated bismuth sulphite in the final gel, which should be dispersed before pouring into the sterile Petri plates.

Appearance of Medium after preparation

The medium appears Yellow to greenish yellow opalescent with flocculent precipitate

Bismuth agar uninoculated
Bismuth agar uninoculated

Type of Inoculums

  • Faeces
  • Urine
  • Sewage

Plate reading and Colonies morphology

The following cultural characteristics should be observed after incubation at 30-35 °C for 24-48

OrganismsColour of Colony
Salmonella Typhimuriumblack or greenish-grey may have sheen
Salmonella Abonyblack with metallic sheen
Enterobacter aerogenesbrown-green (depends on the inoculum density)
Enterococcus faecalisNo growth (Inhibited)
Salmonella Enteritidis black with metallic sheen
Salmonella Typhiblack with metallic sheen
Shigella flexneribrown
Escherichia coli Brown to green, depends on inoculum density
Salmonella on Bismuth sulfite agar
Salmonella on Bismuth sulfite agar
salmonella abony
salmonella abony


  • United States Pharmacopoeia, 2009, U. S. Pharmacopoeial Convention, Inc., Rockville, MD.
  • Washington J.A.,1981,Laboratory Procedures in Clinical Microbiology, Springer-Verlag, New York.
  • Eaton A. D., Clesceri L. S. and Greenberg A W.,(Eds.), 2005, Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 21st ed., APHA, Washington, D.C.
  • Bacteriological Analytical Manual, 8th Edition, Revision A, 1998. AOAC, Washington D.C.
  • Murray PR, Baren EJ, Jorgensen JH, Pfaller MA, Yolken RH (editors) 2003, Manual of clinical Microbiology, 8th ed., ASM, Washington, D.C
  • 6. Downes F P and Ito K. (Eds.), 2001, Compendium of Methods for the Microbiological Examination of Foods, 4th ed., APHA, Washington, D.C

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About the Author: Arthur Westmann

DEFFE ARTHUR (AMOEBAMANN) is the founder and author of MLTGEEKS and MLTEXPO.He’s from Cameroon and is currently a Final year State Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT MA). Beyond lab works, he’s a passionate internet user with a keen interest in web design and blogging. Furthermore He likes traveling, hanging around with friends and social networking to do in his spare time.

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