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Mannitol Salt Agar (MSA)

This type of medium is both selective and differential. The MSA will select for organisms such as Staphylococcus species which can live in areas of high salt concentration (plate on the left in the picture below). This is in contrast to Streptococcus species, whose growth is selected against by this high salt agar (plate on the right in the picture below).

The differential ingredient in MSA is the sugar mannitol. Organisms capable of using mannitol as a food source will produce acidic byproducts of fermentation that will lower the pH of the media. The acidity of the media will cause the pH indicator, phenol red, to turn yellow. Staphylococcus aureus is capable of fermenting mannitol (left side of left plate) while Staphylococcus epidermidis is not (right side of left plate).

msa plate results

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