Sulfur Reduction Test- Principle, Procedure, Results, Uses
The sulfur reduction test is a microbiological test that can be used to identify and differentiate bacteria based on their ability to reduce sulfur to hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The test is especially useful for distinguishing members of the family Enterobacteriaceae, which includes many medically important pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia, and Proteus. Some of these bacteria can reduce sulfur to H2S as part of their metabolic processes, while others cannot. The test can also help to differentiate some other genera of bacteria, such as Citrobacter, Klebsiella, and Yersinia, from closely related organisms.
The main objectives of the sulfur reduction test are:
- To determine the ability of the organism to reduce sulfur for the production of hydrogen sulfide.
- To differentiate members of Enterobacteriaceae, especially the sulfur-reducing Salmonella and Proteus from the non-reducing Morganella morganii and Providencia rettgeri.
- To provide additional information for the identification and classification of bacteria based on their biochemical characteristics.
The Sulfur Reduction Test is performed using the SIM medium. SIM medium also tests for indole production and motility. It is a semi-solid medium that is formulated with casein and animal tissue as sources of amino acids, an iron-containing compound, and sulfur in the form of sodium thiosulfate.
The medium contains ferrous ammonium sulfate and sodium thiosulfate, which together serve as indicators for the production of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide production is detected when ferrous sulfide, a black precipitate, is produced as a result of ferrous ammonium sulfate reacting with H2S gas.
Sulfur reduction to H2S is an anaerobic activity and can be accomplished by bacteria in two different ways, depending on the enzymes present. Sulfur can be reduced to H2S (hydrogen sulfide) either by catabolism of the amino acid cysteine by the enzyme cysteine desulfurase or by reduction of thiosulfate in anaerobic respiration.
If hydrogen sulfide is produced, a black color forms in the medium, indicative of the positive reaction. No black color formation on the medium is indicative of negative test results implying that the organism is not capable of reducing the sulfur on the medium.
SIM medium is a semi-solid medium that is used to perform the sulfur reduction test, along with indole production and motility tests. It contains the following ingredients:
- Pancreatic digest of casein: This is a source of amino acids, including cysteine, which can be catabolized by some bacteria to produce hydrogen sulfide.
- Peptic digest of animal tissue: This is another source of amino acids and nitrogenous compounds for bacterial growth.
- Agar: This is a solidifying agent that gives the medium a semi-solid consistency. It allows the detection of motility by observing the diffusion of growth away from the stab line.
- Ferrous ammonium sulfate: This is an iron-containing compound that reacts with hydrogen sulfide to form a black precipitate of ferrous sulfide. It serves as an indicator for sulfur reduction.
- Sodium thiosulfate: This is a sulfur-containing compound that can be reduced by some bacteria to produce hydrogen sulfide. It serves as a substrate for sulfur reduction.
The pH of the medium is adjusted to 7.3 ± 0.2 at 25°C to provide optimal conditions for bacterial growth and enzyme activity. The medium is sterilized by autoclaving and dispensed into tubes. The tubes are stored in a cool and dark place until use.
The SIM medium contains the following ingredients per liter of distilled water:
- Pancreatic digest of casein: 20.0 g. This is a source of amino acids and nitrogen for bacterial growth.
- Peptic digest of animal tissue: 6.1 g. This is another source of amino acids and nitrogen for bacterial growth.
- Agar: 3.5 g. This is a solidifying agent that makes the medium semi-solid and allows the detection of motility.
- Ferrous ammonium sulfate (Fe(NH4)2(SO4)2·6H2O): 0.2 g. This is an iron-containing compound that reacts with hydrogen sulfide to form a black precipitate of ferrous sulfide (FeS).
- Sodium thiosulfate (Na2S2O3·5H2O): 0.2 g. This is a sulfur-containing compound that serves as a substrate for sulfur reduction by bacteria.
- pH indicator: The medium has a pH of 7.3 ± 0.2 at 25°C.
The medium is sterilized by autoclaving at 121°C for 15 minutes and cooled before use.
- Inoculate the organism into a labeled tube by means of stab inoculation in the SIM medium. To do this, use a sterile inoculating needle and insert it straight down into the center of the medium to about half the depth of the tube. Then withdraw the needle along the same line without disturbing the medium.
- Incubate the inoculated tubes at 37°C for 24-48 hours.
- Observe for the formation of black precipitate on the medium. A black color along the stab line indicates a positive result for sulfur reduction. No black color on the medium indicates a negative result for sulfur reduction.
The result of the sulfur reduction test is based on the observation of the color change in the SIM medium after incubation. The presence of a black precipitate along the stab line indicates a positive result, meaning that the organism is capable of reducing sulfur to hydrogen sulfide. The absence of a black precipitate indicates a negative result, meaning that the organism cannot reduce sulfur to hydrogen sulfide.
The following table summarizes the interpretation of the results:
|Black precipitate along stab line
|Positive for sulfur reduction
|No black precipitate along stab line
|Negative for sulfur reduction
The sulfur reduction test can help differentiate some members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, such as Salmonella and Proteus, which are positive for sulfur reduction, from Morganella and Providencia, which are negative for sulfur reduction. However, this test alone is not sufficient to identify the organism, and other biochemical tests should be performed to confirm the identification.
Some possible additional sentences to conclude the point 6 are:
- The sulfur reduction test is a simple and useful method to detect the production of hydrogen sulfide by bacteria in an anaerobic environment.
- The sulfur reduction test can provide valuable information about the metabolic capabilities and respiratory pathways of bacteria.
- The sulfur reduction test should be performed in conjunction with other tests to achieve a reliable identification of bacteria.
- The sulfur reduction test is not specific for the identification of sulfur-reducing bacteria, as some non-sulfur-reducing bacteria may also produce hydrogen sulfide from other sources, such as cystine or methionine. Therefore, the test should be used in conjunction with other biochemical tests and serological methods to confirm the identity of the organism.
- The sulfur reduction test may not detect weak or delayed hydrogen sulfide producers, as the black precipitate may take longer than 48 hours to form or may be obscured by the growth of other bacteria. Therefore, the test should be repeated or extended if the results are doubtful or inconclusive.
- The sulfur reduction test may give false-negative results if the medium is exposed to air, as oxygen may oxidize the ferrous sulfide back to thiosulfate and iron. Therefore, the medium should be kept tightly capped and protected from light during incubation and observation.
- The sulfur reduction test may give false-positive results if the medium is contaminated with iron or sulfur compounds, as they may react with hydrogen sulfide and produce a black color. Therefore, the medium should be prepared with deionized water and sterilized by autoclaving to avoid contamination.
To ensure the validity and accuracy of the sulfur reduction test, it is important to use quality control strains that are known to be positive or negative for hydrogen sulfide production. Quality control strains should be inoculated in the same manner and incubated under the same conditions as the test strains. The results of the quality control strains should be consistent with the expected outcomes. If the quality control results are not as expected, the test should be repeated with a new batch of SIM medium and reagents.
Some examples of quality control strains are:
- Salmonella enterica ATCC 14028: H2S positive, black color along the stab line
- Escherichia coli ATCC 25922: H2S negative, no black color along the stab line
- Morganella morganii ATCC 25830: H2S negative, no black color along the stab line
The quality control strains should be stored and maintained according to the manufacturer`s instructions and standard microbiological practices. They should be checked for purity, viability, and identity before use. They should also be subcultured regularly to avoid loss of characteristics or contamination.
The quality control results should be recorded and documented in a log book or a database. Any discrepancies or deviations from the expected results should be investigated and resolved. The quality control data should be reviewed periodically to monitor the performance and reliability of the test method.
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