TSIA Test- Principle, Media, Procedure, Results, Uses, Limitations
The TSIA test is a laboratory test that is used to identify and differentiate gram-negative intestinal bacilli based on their ability to ferment sugars and produce hydrogen sulfide. Gram-negative intestinal bacilli are a group of bacteria that inhabit the human and animal intestines and can cause various diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, and food poisoning. Some examples of gram-negative intestinal bacilli are Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Klebsiella, Proteus, and Yersinia.
The TSIA test is also known as the Triple Sugar Iron Agar test because it uses a medium that contains three sugars (glucose, lactose, and sucrose) and iron salts (ferrous sulfate and sodium thiosulfate). The medium also contains peptone (a source of nitrogen), phenol red (a pH indicator), and agar (a solidifying agent). The TSIA test can detect four biochemical reactions: glucose fermentation, lactose fermentation, sucrose fermentation, and hydrogen sulfide production. These reactions result in different color changes and gas formation in the medium that can be observed after incubation.
The TSIA test is a simple, inexpensive, and reliable method for identifying gram-negative intestinal bacilli. It can help in the diagnosis of infections caused by these bacteria and guide the appropriate treatment. The TSIA test can also be used for epidemiological purposes to track the source and spread of outbreaks. However, the TSIA test has some limitations and cannot provide a definitive identification of the bacterial species or strain. Therefore, it should be used in conjunction with other tests and methods for confirmation.
The TSIA test is a useful tool for identifying and differentiating gram-negative bacilli that belong to the Enterobacteriaceae family or other related groups. The Enterobacteriaceae are a large and diverse group of bacteria that inhabit various environments, including the human and animal intestines. Some of them are important pathogens that cause diseases such as typhoid fever, dysentery, urinary tract infections, and septicemia. Others are beneficial or harmless commensals that contribute to the normal flora of the gut.
The TSIA test can help to distinguish between different genera and species of Enterobacteriaceae based on their ability to ferment glucose and other sugars (lactose and sucrose) and to produce hydrogen sulfide gas. These characteristics are determined by the presence or absence of specific enzymes in the bacterial cells, such as lactase, sucrase, and thiosulfate reductase. The TSIA test can also detect the production of gas (carbon dioxide and hydrogen) and acid from carbohydrate fermentation.
The TSIA test is especially useful for differentiating between Salmonella and Shigella, two closely related genera of Enterobacteriaceae that cause similar symptoms of gastroenteritis. Salmonella can ferment glucose and produce hydrogen sulfide, but not lactose or sucrose. Shigella can ferment glucose, but not lactose, sucrose, or hydrogen sulfide. Therefore, the TSIA test can help to confirm or rule out the presence of these pathogens in a clinical specimen.
The TSIA test is also helpful for identifying other members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, such as Escherichia, Klebsiella, Proteus, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Serratia, and Yersinia. Each of these genera has a distinct pattern of carbohydrate fermentation and hydrogen sulfide production that can be observed in the TSIA test. For example, Escherichia and Klebsiella can ferment glucose and lactose, but not sucrose or hydrogen sulfide. Proteus can ferment glucose and produce hydrogen sulfide, but not lactose or sucrose. Citrobacter can ferment glucose, lactose, and sucrose, and produce hydrogen sulfide.
The TSIA test is not only limited to the Enterobacteriaceae family. It can also be used to identify some other gram-negative bacilli that are related to or resemble the Enterobacteriaceae, such as Aeromonas, Plesiomonas, Vibrio, Edwardsiella, and Providencia. These bacteria may also cause infections in humans or animals and have similar or different patterns of carbohydrate fermentation and hydrogen sulfide production.
Therefore, the main objectives of the TSIA test are:
- To determine whether a gram-negative bacillus can ferment glucose and produce acid.
- To determine whether a gram-negative bacillus can ferment lactose and/or sucrose and produce acid.
- To determine whether a gram-negative bacillus can produce hydrogen sulfide gas from sodium thiosulfate.
- To differentiate between various genera and species of Enterobacteriaceae and other related gram-negative bacilli based on their carbohydrate fermentation and hydrogen sulfide production profiles.
The principle of TSIA test is based on the ability of different bacteria to ferment glucose, lactose and/or sucrose and to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from amino acids. The medium used for this test contains three sugars: glucose (dextrose), lactose and sucrose in the ratio of 1:1:10, as well as peptone, yeast extract, beef extract, sodium thiosulfate, ferrous sulfate and phenol red. The peptone, yeast extract and beef extract provide nitrogen, vitamins and minerals for bacterial growth. The sodium thiosulfate and ferrous sulfate serve as substrates and indicators for H2S production. The phenol red is a pH indicator that changes color from red to yellow in acidic conditions.
When bacteria are inoculated into the medium, they may ferment one or more of the sugars, depending on their metabolic capabilities. The fermentation of sugars produces acidic end products that lower the pH of the medium. The fermentation of glucose alone produces a small amount of acid that turns the butt of the tube yellow, but not enough to affect the slant, which remains red due to aerobic oxidation of peptone. The fermentation of lactose and/or sucrose produces a large amount of acid that turns both the butt and the slant yellow. Some bacteria may also produce gas (CO2 and/or H2) during fermentation, which causes bubbles or cracks in the medium.
Some bacteria may also produce H2S from the reduction of sulfur-containing amino acids in peptone. The H2S reacts with ferrous sulfate to form ferrous sulfide, which is a black precipitate that darkens the medium. The production of H2S requires an acidic environment, so it is usually associated with glucose fermentation.
The TSIA test can differentiate between various groups or genera of gram-negative bacilli based on their sugar fermentation and H2S production patterns. For example, Salmonella spp. ferment glucose but not lactose or sucrose and produce H2S, resulting in a K/A (alkaline slant/acidic butt) with H2S+ reaction. Escherichia coli ferment glucose and lactose but not sucrose and do not produce H2S, resulting in an A/A (acidic slant/acidic butt) with H2S- reaction. Shigella spp. ferment glucose but not lactose or sucrose and do not produce H2S, resulting in a K/A with H2S- reaction.
The TSIA test is useful for identifying members of the Enterobacteriaceae family from other gram-negative rods and for distinguishing between some genera within this family. However, it is not sufficient for definitive identification and confirmation of organisms, which requires further biochemical tests and serological typing.
The media used in TSIA test is called Triple Sugar Iron Agar (TSIA). It is a differential medium that contains three sugars (glucose, lactose, and sucrose), ferrous sulfate, and phenol red. It is used to differentiate some microorganisms, especially Enterobacteriaceae, on the basis of carbohydrate fermentation, hydrogen sulfide production, and gas production. The medium has a slant and a butt, which are aerobic and anaerobic, respectively.
The composition of TSIA agar is as follows:
|Ferrous sulfate or ferrous ammonium sulfate
The final pH of the medium is 7.3 +/- 0.2 at 25°C.
The three carbohydrates are in the concentration of 10:10:1 (i.e. 10 part lactose (1%), 10 part sucrose (1%) and 1 part glucose (0.1%)). This ratio allows the detection of different fermentation patterns by different bacteria. Phenol red is the pH indicator that changes color from orange-red to yellow in the presence of acids and from orange-red to deep red in the presence of alkaline products. Ferrous sulfate or ferrous ammonium sulfate serves as an indicator of hydrogen sulfide production by reacting with the colorless gas to form a black precipitate. Sodium thiosulfate is the substrate for hydrogen sulfide production by some bacteria. Agar is used to solidify the medium and create a slant and a butt. Beef extract, yeast extract, and peptone are the sources of nitrogen, vitamins, and minerals for bacterial growth.
TSI agar is prepared by combining the ingredients, boiling to dissolve the agar, dispensing into tubes, sterilizing by autoclaving at 121°C for 15 minutes, and cooling in a slanted position to give a 2.5 cm butt and a 3.8 cm slant. TSI agar is also available commercially.
To perform the TSIA test, you will need a straight inoculating needle and a tube of TSIA medium. Follow these steps:
- Sterilize the inoculating needle by flaming it until it glows red. Allow it to cool before proceeding.
- Pick a well-isolated colony from an agar plate with the tip of the needle. Do not touch the agar surface with the needle shaft or the sides of the tube.
- Inoculate the TSIA medium by first stabbing through the center of the medium to the bottom of the tube. This will create an anaerobic environment in the butt of the tube.
- Withdraw the needle and streak the surface of the agar slant with a zigzag motion. This will create an aerobic environment on the slant.
- Loosely cap the tube and incubate it at 35°C to 37°C in ambient air for 18 to 24 hours. Do not incubate longer than 24 hours as this may alter the results.
- After incubation, examine the tube for color change in the slant and butt, blackening of the medium, and gas production.
The color change in the slant and butt indicates whether the organism can ferment glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose. The blackening of the medium indicates whether the organism can produce hydrogen sulfide. The gas production is indicated by cracks or bubbles in the agar or by lifting of the agar from the bottom or sides of the tube.
The following table summarizes the possible results and interpretations of the TSIA test:
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with acid accumulation in slant and butt
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with acid accumulation and H2S production in butt
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with acid accumulation and gas production in butt
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with acid accumulation, H2S production, and gas production in butt
|Glucose fermentation with acid accumulation in butt only; slant reverts to alkaline due to peptone utilization
|Glucose fermentation with acid accumulation and H2S production in butt only; slant reverts to alkaline due to peptone utilization
|Glucose fermentation with acid accumulation and gas production in butt only; slant reverts to alkaline due to peptone utilization
|Glucose fermentation with acid accumulation, H2S production, and gas production in butt only; slant reverts to alkaline due to peptone utilization
|Red/Red (or No Change)
|No carbohydrate fermentation; peptone utilization only
|Red/Red (or No Change)
|No carbohydrate fermentation; peptone utilization and H2S production
|Red/Red (or No Change)
|No carbohydrate fermentation; peptone utilization and gas production
|Red/Red (or No Change)
|No carbohydrate fermentation; peptone utilization, H2S production, and gas production
The result of the TSIA test is based on the color change and gas production in the slant and butt of the tube, as well as the blackening of the medium due to hydrogen sulfide (H2S) formation. The color change is caused by the acid-base indicator phenol red, which turns yellow in acidic conditions and red in alkaline conditions. The gas production is indicated by the presence of bubbles, cracks, or displacement of the medium. The H2S production is indicated by the reaction of sodium thiosulfate and ferrous ammonium sulfate, which produces a black precipitate of ferrous sulfide.
The following table summarizes the possible results and interpretations of the TSIA test:
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with or without gas production. H2S may or may not be produced.
|Glucose fermentation only with or without gas production. H2S may or may not be produced.
|No fermentation. Peptone catabolism only (alkaline reaction).
|No fermentation. No peptone catabolism.
|Glucose, lactose, and/or sucrose fermentation with H2S production. Gas may or may not be produced.
|Glucose fermentation with H2S production. Gas may or may not be produced.
Some examples of organisms and their typical TSIA reactions are:
- Escherichia coli: Yellow/Yellow, Gas+, H2S-
- Salmonella typhimurium: Red/Black, Gas+, H2S+
- Shigella dysenteriae: Red/Yellow, Gas-, H2S-
- Proteus vulgaris: Red/Black, Gas+, H2S+
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Red/Red, Gas-, H2S-
The TSIA test can help differentiate among the members of the Enterobacteriaceae family and other gram-negative rods based on their carbohydrate fermentation and H2S production patterns. However, it is not sufficient for definitive identification and confirmation of organisms. Further biochemical tests and serological typing are required for that purpose.
- TSIA test must be read within the 18-24 hour stated incubation period. A false-positive reaction may be observed if read too early. A false-negative reaction may be observed if read later than 24 hours.
- An organism that produces hydrogen sulfide may mask acid production in the butt of the medium. However, hydrogen sulfide production requires an acid environment, thus the butt portion should be considered acid.
- TSIA test is not as sensitive in detecting hydrogen sulfide in comparison to other iron containing mediums, such as Sulfide Indole Motility (SIM) Medium. Thus, organisms that have weak hydrogen sulfide production may show only trace hydrogen sulfide activity, or none at all.
- Certain species or strains may give delayed reactions or completely fail to ferment the carbohydrate in the stated manner. However, if the organism fails to ferment glucose within 48 hours, it most likely is not in the Enterobacteriaceae family.
- A pure culture is essential when inoculating TSIA test. If inoculated with a mixed culture, irregular observations may occur.
- Further biochemical tests and serological typing must be performed for definite identification and confirmation of organisms.
Quality control is an essential step to ensure the validity and reliability of the TSIA test results. Quality control involves checking the performance of the medium, the inoculation technique, and the interpretation of the reactions.
The performance of the medium can be checked by using reference strains of known biochemical characteristics. For example, Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 can be used as a positive control for glucose, lactose and gas fermentation, and negative control for H2S production. Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Typhimurium ATCC 14028 can be used as a positive control for glucose and H2S fermentation, and negative control for lactose and sucrose fermentation. The reference strains should be inoculated and incubated following the same procedure as the test strains, and the expected reactions should be observed.
The inoculation technique should be standardized and consistent to avoid false or ambiguous results. The inoculation needle should be straight and not bent or twisted. The needle should be inserted through the center of the medium to the bottom of the tube, and then withdrawn along the same path. The surface of the slant should be streaked lightly with the needle tip without breaking or tearing the agar. The cap of the tube should be left loosely to allow air exchange. The inoculated tubes should be incubated at 35-37°C in ambient air for 18-24 hours.
The interpretation of the reactions should be done carefully and accurately based on the color change, gas production, and H2S production in the slant and butt of the tube. The color change indicates the pH of the medium, which reflects the fermentation of carbohydrates. A yellow color indicates an acid reaction due to carbohydrate fermentation, while a red color indicates an alkaline reaction due to peptone utilization. Gas production is indicated by bubbles, cracks, or lifting of the agar in the tube. H2S production is indicated by a black precipitate in the butt of the tube due to the reaction of H2S with ferric ammonium citrate.
Quality control should be performed regularly and whenever a new batch of medium is prepared or received. Any deviation from the expected results should be investigated and corrected before proceeding with the test. Quality control ensures that the TSIA test results are accurate and reliable for differentiation of enteric gram-negative bacilli.
We are Compiling this Section. Thanks for your understanding.