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Microbiology Culture or Culturing

A culture is a way of growing a microbe in a laboratory setting. Under the right conditions and within a narrow delivery time (couple of hours) of the specimen to the microbiology lab, many (up to 1,000) bacteria can be grown or cultured. The precise characteristics of the growing culture can be used to identify the specific pathogen. Use of a “selective agent” can be used to determine features of the pathogen. For example, growth of Staph aureus in a culture that contains methicillin (the selective agent) would be indicative of methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA).

These cultures are usually contained on plates or tubes which contain special food that allows a particular pathogen or group of pathogens to grow. This allows lab workers to identify which microbe is growing. Lab workers may need to grow the microbe on multiple different culture plates (or tubes) to pinpoint exactly which microbe it is. This can be much like playing detective or piecing together a puzzle.

The last two centuries have provided science with the ability to culture bacteria in up to eleven (11) different phyla, or bacterial kingdoms.  Since the advent of DNA testing, this number has grown to eighty-five (85) and most of these have no cultured representatives.


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