Cultivation of Nocardia spp. on chemically defined media for selective recovery of isolates from clinical specimens.


Isolation of Nocardia spp. from clinical specimens can be enhanced by the use of paraffin baiting, which relies on the selective ability of the organism to metabolize paraffin. We evaluated 44 Nocardia isolates, 18 group IV mycobacterial isolates, and 4 Streptomyces isolates for growth on blood agar (BA) and on carbon-free agar containing single or double substrates as follows: paraffin agar (PA), gelatin agar (GA), urea agar (UA), PA-gelatin (PG), and PA-urea (PU). The growth rates of Nocardia spp. on BA, PA, PU, and PG were similar; but 3-day-old colonies were larger on BA for 20 (45%) isolates. After longer incubations (7 to 14 days), some Nocardia colonies were larger on PA, PG and PU than they were on BA. Despite variable morphologies on BA, colonies on PA, PG, and PU were consistently smooth, creamy, and raised. Compared with growth on BA, the growth of mycobacteria was much slower on PA, PG, and PU, with poor growth on UA and GA. The growth of Streptomyces spp. was greatly enhanced on GA, PG, UA, and PU and was poorest on PA. Twelve sputum specimens seeded with Nocardia asteroides (10(4) CFU/ml) were inoculated onto BA and all chemically defined media. Nocardiae were recovered from 6 to 12 specimens grown on BA, GA, and UA; 11 of 12 specimens grown on PG; and 12 of 12 specimens grown on PA and PU. Only PA was able to suppress the growth of other microorganisms that were present in sputum specimens. These results suggest that chemically defined media containing PA may be useful for the selective isolation of Nocardia spp. from contaminated clinical specimens.

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