Group D Streptococci possess the group D lipoteichoic acid antigen in their cell walls. Former Group D species, which are predominant normal inhabitants of the human gastrointestinal tract, are termed as faecal Streptococci or Enterococci (1). The unique ability of Enterococci to split esculin was reported by Meyer and Schonfeld (2). Enterococci and Group D Streptococci hydrolyse esculin to esculetin and dextrose, which reacts with ferric citrate producing brownish black precipitate (3). The use of esculin hydrolysis in identification of Enterococci was first cited by Rochaix (4). Bile Esculin Agar was originally formulated by Swan (6) for the isolation and identification of Group D Streptococci from food. Facklam and Moody (7, 8) further reported that using Bile Esculin Agar, Group D Streptococci could be differentiated from non Group D Streptococci. Bile Esculin Agar was also shown to aid differentiation of Enterobacteriaceae, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Serratia from other Enterobacteriaceae genera (9) on the basis of esculin hydrolysis. However, other tests such as salt tolerance should be performed for identifying Enterococci (5).
Bile Esculin Agar with Kanamycin is recommended for the selective isolation and presumptive identification of Bacteroides fragilis group of bacteria from mixed flora. This medium is a modification of the original formulation of Swan (6). In this medium kanamycin is added to an enriched Bile Esculin Agar, enriched with hemin and vitamin K1. Hemin and vitamin K1 enriches and enhances the growth of Bacteroides species. Kanamycin selectively promotes the growth of Bacteroides fragilis while inhibiting the growth of facultative anaerobic and aerobic gram-negative bacilli. Anaerobes that are incapable of hydrolyzing esculin do not form brown or black pigmented colonies on this medium. The plates should be reduced by keeping in anaerobic jar for 18-24 hours, just before incubation (10).
Pancreatic digest of gelatin and beef extract serves as sources of carbon, nitrogen, amino acids, vitamins and essential growth nutrients. Oxgall and kanamycin inhibits most of the other accompyning bacteria. Esculin in the medium is hydrolyzed to esculetin and dextrose. Esculetin reacts with ferric citrate to form a dark brown or black complex, visualized as a zone of black precipitate around the colonies. Viridans Streptococci sometimes exhibit a weak positive reaction. Also, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Lactococcus species causing human infections give a positive bile esculin test (11). To enhance the growth of Enterococci, Bile Esculin Agar can be supplemented with 50ml/l horse serum (3).
The test specimens can be directly streaked on the surface of the plate. The inoculated plates should be immediately incubated under anaerobic conditions at 35-37°C. Incubation should be carried out for upto 7 days.
Storage and Shelf-life:
Store below 30°C in tightly closed container and prepared medium at 2 - 8°C. Use before expiry date on the label.
1. Koneman E. W., Allen S. D., Janda W. M., Schreckenberger P. C., Winn W. C. Jr., 1992, Colour Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology, 4 th Ed., J. B. Lippinccott Company
2. Meyer and Schonfeld, 1926, Zentralbl. Bakeriol, Parasitenk. Infectionskr. Hyg. Abt. Orig. 99:402.
3. MacFaddin J. F., 1985, Media for Isolation-Cultivation-Identification-Maintenance of Medical Bacteria, Vol. I, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore.
4. Rochaix, 1924, Comt. Rend. Soc. Biol., 90:771.
5. Facklam R., 1973, Appl. Microbiol., 26:138.
6. Swan, 1954, J. Clin. Pathol., 7:160.
7. Facklam R., 1972, Appl. Microbiol., 23:1131.
8. Facklam R. R and Moody M. D., 1970, Appl. Microbiol., 20(2):245.
9. Edberg S. C., Pittman S., and Singer J. M., 1977, J. Clin. Microbiol., 6:111.
10. Dowell, 1975, Am. J. Med. Technol., 41:402.
11. Murray P. R., Baron E. J., Jorgensen J. H., Pfaller M. A., Yolken R. H.,(Eds.), 8th Ed., 2003, Manual of Clinical Microbiology, ASM, Washington, D.C.