Fig. 7: Escherichia coli Growing on MacConkey Agar

MacConkey agar is a selective medium used for the isolation of non-fastidious gram-negative rods, particularly members of the family Enterobacteriaceae and the genus Pseudomonas, and the differentiation of lactose fermenting from lactose non-fermenting gram-negative bacilli. MacConkey agar contains the dye crystal violet well as bile salts that inhibit the growth of most gram-positive bacteria but do not affect the growth of most gram-negatives.

Strong fementation of lactose with high levels of acid production by the bacteria causes the colonies and confluent growth to appear bright pink to red. The resulting acid, at high enough concentrations, can also causes the bile salts in the medium to precipitate out of solution causing a pink halo to appear around the the growth (arrows).


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Microbiology Laboratory Manual by Gary E. Kaiser, PhD, Professor of Microbiology
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Last updated: August, 2017