Ashdown’s Agar Composition, Principle, Preparation, Results, Uses

Ashdown’s medium, formulated by LR Ashdown in 1979, serves as a selective culture medium designed for the isolation and characterization of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium responsible for causing melioidosis.

Composition of Ashdown’s Agar in Table

Component Amount per liter of water
Proteose peptone No. 3 10.0 grams
Yeast extract 3.0 grams
L-Cystine 0.24 grams
Gentamicin sulfate 0.125 grams
Crystal violet 0.001 grams
Neutral red 0.03 grams
Magnesium chloride (anhydrous) 0.1 grams
Sodium citrate 0.2 grams
Agar 20.0 grams
Distilled water To make 1000 milliliters (ml)

Principle of Ashdown’s Agar:

The principle of Ashdown’s Agar lies in its selective and differential properties, specifically tailored for the isolation and identification of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium responsible for causing melioidosis.

  1. Selective Medium:

Ashdown’s Agar contains selective agents that inhibit the growth of many other microorganisms while promoting the growth of Burkholderia pseudomallei. The selective agents help in suppressing the background flora, allowing for the isolation of the target bacterium.

  1. Inhibition of Gram-Positive Bacteria:

The presence of crystal violet in the medium serves as an inhibitory agent, suppressing the growth of many Gram-positive bacteria. This selective property is essential for specifically isolating Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is a Gram-negative bacterium.

  1. Gentamicin as an Antibiotic:

Gentamicin sulfate is included in the medium to inhibit the growth of a wide range of Gram-negative bacteria, allowing for the selective enrichment of Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  1. Detection of Burkholderia pseudomallei:

The medium is formulated to support the growth of Burkholderia pseudomallei, allowing it to form characteristic colonies. The selective and inhibitory agents in Ashdown’s Agar facilitate the isolation of this bacterium from complex samples.

  1. Differential Characteristics:

Ashdown’s Agar incorporates specific indicators, such as neutral red, which imparts differential characteristics to distinguish Burkholderia pseudomallei colonies based on their morphology and color. This aids in the identification of the target organism.

  1. L-Cystine as a Growth Enhancer:

L-Cystine is included to enhance the growth of Burkholderia pseudomallei. It provides a source of sulfur, which is essential for the growth of this bacterium.

  1. Cultural Characteristics:

Burkholderia pseudomallei produces distinctive colonies with specific cultural characteristics on Ashdown’s Agar, facilitating easy identification and further characterization.

Preparation and Method of Use of Ashdown’s Agar

The preparation and method of use of Ashdown’s Agar involve a series of steps to ensure the selective isolation of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium responsible for causing melioidosis.

Preparation of Ashdown’s Agar:

  1. Weighing Ingredients:

Weigh the required amounts of each component listed in the composition. The quantities are typically per liter of distilled water.

  1. Mixing:

Dissolve the components in distilled water while stirring to ensure uniform mixing.

  1. Autoclaving:

Autoclave the medium to sterilize it. Follow standard autoclaving procedures, including appropriate temperature and pressure conditions.

  1. Pouring Agar Plates:

After autoclaving, cool the medium to around 50-55°C and pour it into sterile Petri dishes to solidify and form agar plates.

  1. Allowing Solidification:

Allow the agar to solidify completely in the Petri dishes.

  1. Storage:

Store the prepared Ashdown’s Agar plates in a refrigerator until ready for use.

Method of Use:

  1. Inoculation:

Inoculate the Ashdown’s Agar plates with the clinical or environmental sample suspected to contain Burkholderia pseudomallei. This can be done by streaking the surface of the agar with a loop or by spreading a diluted sample.

  1. Incubation:

Incubate the inoculated plates at the appropriate temperature, typically around 37°C. Burkholderia pseudomallei is known to grow well under aerobic conditions.

  1. Monitoring for Growth:

Regularly monitor the plates for the growth of characteristic colonies. Burkholderia pseudomallei colonies on Ashdown’s Agar often exhibit distinctive features such as morphology, color, and size.

  1. Subculturing:

Once characteristic colonies are observed, subculture them onto fresh Ashdown’s Agar plates for further isolation and confirmation.

  1. Identification:

Perform additional tests for the identification and confirmation of Burkholderia pseudomallei. This may include biochemical tests, molecular techniques, and other specific assays.

Result Interpretation of Ashdown’s Agar

Interpreting results on Ashdown’s Agar involves examining the characteristics of the colonies that grow on the medium. This selective and differential medium is primarily used for the isolation and identification of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium responsible for causing melioidosis.

  1. Colonial Morphology:

Burkholderia pseudomallei colonies on Ashdown’s Agar typically display distinctive characteristics. They often appear as small, wrinkled, and moist colonies with a cream or pinkish color.

  1. Growth Inhibition:

Ashdown’s Agar contains selective agents and antibiotics that inhibit the growth of many other microorganisms. Therefore, the presence of colonies suggests resistance to these inhibitory factors and is an indication of Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  1. Colonial Size and Color:

Burkholderia pseudomallei colonies can vary in size but often exhibit a cream or pinkish coloration. The coloration may result from the presence of neutral red in the medium.

  1. Confirmation Tests:

While the colonial morphology on Ashdown’s Agar is suggestive of Burkholderia pseudomallei, additional confirmation tests are typically required. Biochemical tests, molecular techniques (such as PCR), and specific assays can be performed to confirm the identity of the isolated bacteria.

  1. Subculturing:

Positive colonies should be subcultured onto fresh Ashdown’s Agar plates or other appropriate media for further isolation and confirmation.

  1. Control Strains:

Include positive and negative control strains for comparison. Positive controls may include known Burkholderia pseudomallei strains, while negative controls should be non-target organisms.

  1. Additional Identification Steps:

Perform additional tests for the identification of Burkholderia pseudomallei, such as oxidase tests, motility tests, and molecular techniques targeting specific genes associated with the bacterium.

  1. Reporting:

Report the results based on the combination of colony morphology, growth characteristics, and confirmation tests. Clearly document any atypical findings or potential contaminants.

Uses of Ashdown’s Agar:

  • Isolation of Burkholderia pseudomallei:

The main purpose of Ashdown’s Agar is to selectively isolate Burkholderia pseudomallei from complex samples, such as clinical specimens (e.g., sputum, blood, urine) or environmental samples (e.g., soil).

  • Detection of Melioidosis:

Ashdown’s Agar is specifically formulated to support the growth of Burkholderia pseudomallei while inhibiting the growth of many other microorganisms. This aids in the detection and isolation of the bacterium from samples associated with suspected melioidosis cases.

  • Screening Clinical Specimens:

The medium is particularly useful for screening clinical samples from patients with symptoms suggestive of melioidosis. The selective nature of the agar helps in reducing the background flora, making it easier to identify Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  • Research and Epidemiological Studies:

Ashdown’s Agar is employed in research and epidemiological studies to study the prevalence, distribution, and characteristics of Burkholderia pseudomallei. The medium contributes to understanding the epidemiology of melioidosis in different regions.

  • Environmental Surveillance:

The medium is valuable for environmental surveillance, especially in regions where melioidosis is endemic. It allows for the detection and isolation of Burkholderia pseudomallei from soil samples, water sources, and other environmental reservoirs.

  • Confirmation of Burkholderia pseudomallei:

Colonies that grow on Ashdown’s Agar can be subjected to further confirmation tests, including biochemical tests and molecular techniques, to ensure the accurate identification of Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  • Quality Control in Laboratories:

Laboratories can use Ashdown’s Agar as a quality control medium to assess the performance of their isolation and identification procedures for Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  • Veterinary Diagnostics:

The medium can be applied in veterinary diagnostics, particularly when investigating cases of melioidosis in animals. It provides a means to isolate Burkholderia pseudomallei from clinical samples obtained from animals.

Limitations of Ashdown’s Agar:

  • Selective for Burkholderia pseudomallei:

Ashdown’s Agar is highly selective for Burkholderia pseudomallei, but it may not be suitable for detecting other closely related Burkholderia species or other bacteria that can cause similar clinical symptoms. Additional confirmatory tests are often necessary for accurate identification.

  • Need for Confirmatory Tests:

Isolates obtained on Ashdown’s Agar require additional biochemical, molecular, or serological tests for definitive identification. The medium alone may not provide sufficient specificity to rule out other non-target organisms.

  • Limited Detection Sensitivity:

The sensitivity of Ashdown’s Agar for detecting Burkholderia pseudomallei may vary. Some strains or environmental samples may not grow well on the medium, leading to false-negative results.

  • Overgrowth of Contaminants:

In some cases, the selective agents in Ashdown’s Agar may not entirely inhibit the growth of all contaminants. Overgrowth of non-target organisms may occur, potentially complicating the isolation of Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  • Nutrient Content:

The nutrient content in Ashdown’s Agar is not as rich as that in some general-purpose media. This may limit the recovery of stressed or nutritionally fastidious strains of Burkholderia pseudomallei.

  • LaborIntensive Technique:

The use of Ashdown’s Agar may be labor-intensive, and the interpretation of results can require expertise. The medium is not as straightforward as some commercially available diagnostic systems.

  • Specialized Medium:

Ashdown’s Agar is specific to the isolation of Burkholderia pseudomallei and may not be suitable for routine culture or identification of other microorganisms. Laboratories may need to use alternative media for different diagnostic purposes.

  • Environmental Variability:

The performance of Ashdown’s Agar may be influenced by environmental factors, such as variations in temperature, humidity, and the geographical distribution of Burkholderia pseudomallei strains.

  • Limited Shelf Life:

Prepared Ashdown’s Agar plates have a limited shelf life, and their performance may deteriorate over time. Freshly prepared media is generally recommended for optimal results.


  • Always follow laboratory safety guidelines and aseptic techniques during the preparation and handling of microbiological media.
  • Consult specific literature or laboratory protocols for precise details, as formulations and procedures may vary.

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