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Vol. 16 No. 9
Replaces M6-T
December 1996 Vol. 13 No. 21

Protocols for Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar;

Approved Standard

This document provides procedures for evaluating production lots of Mueller–Hinton agar and for the
development and application of reference media.

Serving the World's Medical Science Community Through Voluntary Consensus
NCCLS is an international, interdisciplinary, nonprofit, scope, approach, and utility, and a line-by-line review of its
standards-developing and educational organization that technical and editorial content.
promotes the development and use of voluntary consensus
standards and guidelines within the healthcare community. It Tentative A tentative standard or guideline is made available
is recognized worldwide for the application of its unique for review and comment only when a recommended method
consensus process in the development of standards and has a well-defined need for a field evaluation or when a
guidelines for patient testing and related healthcare issues. recommended protocol requires that specific data be collected.
NCCLS is based on the principle that consensus is an effective It should be reviewed to ensure its utility.
and cost-effective way to improve patient testing and
healthcare services. Approved An approved standard or guideline has achieved
consensus within the healthcare community. It should be
In addition to developing and promoting the use of voluntary reviewed to assess the utility of the final document, to ensure
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quality of patient testing and health care. the need for additional consensus documents.

PUBLICATIONS NCCLS standards and guidelines represent a consensus opinion

on good practices and reflect the substantial agreement by
An NCCLS document is published as a standard, guideline, or materially affected, competent, and interested parties obtained
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December 1996 M6-A

Protocols for Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar;

Approved Standard

This document describes three protocols for the evaluation of dehydrated Mueller–Hinton agar in the
disk diffusion procedure for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The first protocol is for use by
manufacturers to evaluate production lots of Mueller–Hinton agar. The second and third are for
selection and stability testing of primary and secondary reference lots of Mueller–Hinton agar.

Performance of production lots is determined by comparison with the primary standard lot, which is
provided to manufacturers upon request. The secondary standard lot may be used when the supply
of the primary standard is threatened or its performance becomes unsatisfactory. Acceptable lots
may be labelled with a statement indicating that the lot was tested according to the protocol found
in this document and meets the acceptance limits of that protocol. These acceptance criteria apply
only to disk diffusion procedures. They do not qualify Mueller–Hinton agar for other methods, such
as agar dilution or antibiotic gradient.

Performance of new reference lots is determined by comparison with the current primary standard
lot. The original primary reference standard lot was selected in 1983 and the secondary standard lot
in 1984. Replacement reference standards were selected in 1992. Replacement primary and
secondary reference standard lots are expected to be selected in 1996.

[NCCLS. Protocols for Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar; Approved Standard. NCCLS
document M6-A (ISBN 1-56238-307-8). NCCLS, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1400, Wayne,
Pennsylvania 19087, 1996.]

THE NCCLS consensus process, which is the mechanism for moving a document through two or
more levels of review by the patient testing community, is an ongoing process. Users should
expect revised editions of any given document. Because rapid changes in technology may affect
the procedures, bench and reference methods, and evaluation protocols used in testing, users
should replace outdated editions with the current editions of NCCLS documents. Current editions
are listed in the NCCLS Catalog, which is distributed to member organizations, or to nonmembers
on request. If your organization is not a member and would like to become one, or to request a
copy of the NCCLS Catalog, contact the NCCLS Executive Offices. Telephone: 610.688.0100;
Fax: 610.688.0700.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 i

ISBN 1-56238-307-8
December 1996 ISSN 0273-3099

Protocols for Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar;

Approved Standard

Volume 16 Number 9
George L. Evans, Ph.D.
Richard H. Bell, Ph.D.
Leslie V. Cunningham, Ph.D.
Mary Jane Ferraro, Ph.D.
Anthony E. Maltese, M.S.
Phyllis A. Pienta, M.S.
Robert P. Rennie, Ph.D.
Roxanne G. Shively, M.S.
Jana M. Swenson, M.M.Sc.

December 1996 M6-A

This publication is protected by copyright. No part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval

system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise) without written permission from NCCLS, except as stated below.

NCCLS hereby grants permission to reproduce limited portions of this publication for use in
laboratory procedure manuals at a single site, for interlibrary loan, or for use in educational programs
provided that multiple copies of such reproduction shall include the following notice, be distributed
without charge, and, in no event, contain more than 20% of the document's text.

Reproduced with permission, from NCCLS publication M6-A, Protocols for Evaluating
Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar; Approved Standard. Copies of the current edition
may be obtained from NCCLS, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1400, Wayne,
Pennsylvania 19087 USA.

Permission to reproduce or otherwise use the text of this document to an extent that exceeds the
exemptions granted here or under the Copyright Law must be obtained from NCCLS by written
request. To request such permission, address inquiries to the Executive Director, NCCLS, 940 West
Valley Road, Suite 1400, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087 USA.

Copyright © 1996. The National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards.

Suggested Citation

NCCLS. Protocols for Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar; Approved Standard. NCCLS
document M6-A (ISBN 1-56238-307-8). NCCLS, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1400, Wayne,
Pennsylvania 19087-1898.

Proposed Standard
November, 1986

Tentative Standard
December, 1993

Approved Standard
December, 1996

ISBN 1-56238-307-8
ISSN 0273-3099

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 iii

December 1996 M6-A

Committee Membership

Area Committee on Microbiology

J. Allan Waitz, Ph.D. Eugene, Oregon


Subcommittee on Culture Media

George L. Evans, Ph.D. Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems

Chairholder Hunt Valley, Maryland

Richard H. Bell, Ph.D. Difco Laboratories

Detroit, Michigan

Leslie V. Cunningham, Ph.D. Acumedia Manufacturers, Inc.

Baltimore, Maryland

Mary Jane Ferraro, Ph.D. Massachusetts General Hospital

Boston, Massachusetts

Anthony E. Maltese, M.S. Remel

Lenexa, Kansas

Phyllis A. Pienta, M.S. American Type Culture Collection

Rockville, Maryland

Robert P. Rennie, Ph.D. University of Alberta Hospitals

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Roxanne G. Shively, M.S. Center for Devices and Radiological Health,

Food & Drug Administration
Rockville, Maryland

Jana M. Swenson, M.M.Sc. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta, Georgia


Arthur L. Barry, Ph.D. Clinical Microbiology Institute

Tualatin, Oregon

Janet Hindler, MCLS, M.T.(ASCP) UCLA Medical Center

Los Angeles, California

Gerald A. Moore Unipath Co. (Oxoid Division)

Ogdensburg, New York

Mary E. Nichols Remel

Lenexa, Kansas

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 iv

December 1996 M6-A

David A. Power, Ph.D. Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems

Hunt Valley, Maryland

Clyde Thornsberry, Ph.D. MRL Pharmaceutical Services

Franklin, Tennessee
Ann M. Willey, Ph.D. New York State Department of Health
Board Liaison Albany, New York

Julie A. Alexander, M.T.(ASCP), M.A. NCCLS

Staff Liaison Wayne, Pennsylvania

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 v

December 1996 M6-A

ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP (as of 1 October 1996)

Sustaining Members Corps professionnel des Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory

technologistes médicaux du Massachusetts Department of
American Association for Québec Public Health Laboratories
Clinical Chemistry Institut für Stand. und Dok. im Michigan Department of Public
Bayer Corporation Med. Lab. (INSTAND) Health
Beckman Instruments, Inc. International Federation of National Institute of Standards
Becton Dickinson and Company Clinical Chemistry and Technology
Boehringer Mannheim International Society for Ohio Department of Health
Diagnostics, Inc. Analytical Cytology Oklahoma State Department of
College of American Italian Society of Clinical Health
Pathologists Biochemistry Ontario Ministry of Health
Coulter Corporation Japan Association of Medical South African Institute for
Dade International Inc. Technologists Medical Research
Johnson & Johnson Clinical Japanese Committee for Clinical Swedish Institute for Infectious
Diagnostics Laboratory Standards Disease Control
Ortho Diagnostic Systems Inc. Joint Commission on
Accreditation of Healthcare Industry Members
Professional Members Organizations
National Academy of Clinical Abbott Laboratories
American Academy of Allergy Biochemistry ABC Consulting Group, Ltd.
Asthma & Immunology National Society for Advanced Care Products
American Academy of Family Histotechnology, Inc. Division (Div. Ortho
Physicians Ontario Medical Association Diagnostic Systems Inc.)
American Association of Laboratory Proficiency Testing aejes
Bioanalysts Program Bayer Corporation - Elkhart, IN
American Association of Blood Sociedade Brasileira de Analises Bayer Corporation - Middletown,
Banks Clinicas VA
American Association for Bayer Corporation - Tarrytown,
Clinical Chemistry Government Members NY
American Association for Bayer Corporation - West
Respiratory Care Armed Forces Institute of Haven, CT
American Chemical Society Pathology Beckman Instruments, Inc.
American Medical Technologists Association of State and Becton Dickinson and Company
American Public Health Territorial Public Health Becton Dickinson Consumer
Association Laboratory Directors Products
American Society for Clinical BC Centre for Disease Control Becton Dickinson
Laboratory Science Center for Preventive Medicine Immunocytometry Systems
American Society of (France) Becton Dickinson Microbiology
Hematology Centers for Disease Control and Systems
American Society for Prevention Becton Dickinson Primary Care
Microbiology China National Centre for the Diagnostics
American Society of Clinical Laboratory Becton Dickinson VACUTAINER
Parasitologists, Inc. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Systems
American Type Culture Bureau of Laboratories Behring Diagnostics Inc.
Collection, Inc. Connecticut Department of Behring Diagnostics Inc. - San
Australasian Association of Public Health & Addiction Jose, CA
Clinical Biochemists Services bioMérieux Vitek, Inc.
Canadian Society of Laboratory Department of Veterans Affairs Biometrology Consultants
Technologists Deutsches Institut für Normung Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.
Clinical Laboratory Management (DIN) Biosite Diagnostics
Association FDA Center for Devices and Boehringer Mannheim
College of American Radiological Health Diagnostics, Inc.
Pathologists FDA Division of Anti-Infective Boehringer Mannheim GmbH
College of Medical Laboratory Drug Products Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Technologists of Ontario Health Care Financing CASCO Standards
Commission on Office Administration ChemTrak
Laboratory Accreditation INMETRO Cholestech
Instituto Scientifico HS. Raffaele Ciba Corning Diagnostics Corp,
(Italy) A Chiron Company

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 vi

December 1996 M6-A

Ciba Corning Diagnostics Corp, International Biomedical Roche Laboratories (Div.

A Chiron Company - Consultants Hoffmann-La Roche Inc.)
Electrophoretic Products International Remote Imaging The R.W. Johnson
Ciba Corning Diagnostics Corp, Systems (IRIS) Pharmaceutical Research
A Chiron Company - Johnson & Johnson Clinical Institute (Div. Ortho Diagnostic
International Operations Diagnostics Systems Inc.)
Ciba Corning Diagnostics Corp, LifeScan, Inc. (Sub. Ortho Schering Corporation
A Chiron Company - Irvine, CA Diagnostic Systems Inc.) Schleicher & Schuell, Inc.
Ciba Corning Diagnostics Corp, Lilly Research Laboratories Second Opinion
A Chiron Company - Reagent Madych Associates, Inc. SenDx Medical, Inc.
Systems Mallinckrodt Sensor Systems Sherwood Medical Company
Clinical Lab Engineering Medical Device Consultants, Showa Yakuhin Kako Company,
COBE Laboratories, Inc. Inc. Ltd.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Medical Laboratory Automation Sienna Biotech
Coulter Corporation Inc. Sigma Chemical Company
Cytometrics, Inc. MediSense, Inc. SmithKline Beecham
CYTYC Corporation Medix Biochemica Corporation
Dade International - Deerfield, IL Merck & Company, Inc. SmithKline Diagnostics, Inc.
Dade International - Glasgow, Metra Biosystems (Sub. Beckman Instruments,
DE Micro Media Systems Inc. (Div. Inc.)
Dade International - Miami, FL Medical Specialties Inc.) Streck Laboratories, Inc.
Dade International - Nellcor Puritan Bennett Sysmex Corporation
Sacramento, CA Neometrics, Inc. TOA Medical Electronics
DAKO A/S Nissui Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. TOSOH Medics, Inc.
Diagnostic Products Corporation Norfolk Associates, Inc. Unipath Co (Oxoid Division)
Diametrics Medical, Inc. North American Biologicals, Inc. The Upjohn Company
Difco Laboratories, Inc. Olympus Corporation Vysis, Inc.
Enterprise Analysis Corporation Optical Sensors, Inc. Wallac Oy
Epoch Pharmaceuticals Organon Teknika Corporation Warner-Lambert Company
Eppendorf, Netherler Hinz GmbH Orion Diagnostica, Inc. The West Company
Donna M. Falcone Consultants Ortho Diagnostic Systems Inc. Wheaton PharmaTech
Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Wyeth-Ayerst
Ltd. Inc. Xyletech Systems, Inc.
Gen-Probe Pfizer Inc Zeneca
Glaxo, Inc. Procter & Gamble
H&S Consultants Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Trade Associations
Health Systems Concepts, Inc. The Product Development Group
Helena Laboratories Radiometer America, Inc. Association of Medical
Higman Healthcare David G. Rhoads Associates, Diagnostic Manufacturers
Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc. Inc. Health Industry Manufacturers
Hybritech, Incorporated Rhône-Poulenc Rorer Association
Hycor Biomedical Inc. Roche Diagnostic Systems
i-STAT Corporation (Div. Hoffmann-La Roche
Integ, Inc. Inc.)

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 vii

December 1996 M6-A

Associate Active Members Elyria Memorial Hospital (OH) Mobile Infirmary Association
Evanston Hospital (IL) (AL)
Affinity Health System (WI) Federal Medical Center (MN) Montgomery Regional Medical
Allegheny University of the Fort Leonard Wood Army Center (AL)
Health Sciences (PA) Community Hospital (MO) Montreal Children’s Hospital
Allergy Testing Laboratory (TX) Grady Memorial Hospital (GA) (Canada)
Alton Ochsner Medical Great Smokies Diagnostic Mount Sinai Hospital (NY)
Foundation (LA) Laboratory (NC) Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto,
American Oncologic Hospital Harris Methodist Fort Worth ON, Canada)
(PA) (TX) National Genetics Institute (CA)
Associated Regional & Hartford Hospital (CT) National Institutes of Health
University Pathologists (UT) Heritage Hospital (MI) (MD)
Astra Research Center Boston Hopital Saint Pierre (Belgium) National Naval Medical Center
(MA) Hunter Area Pathology Service (MD)
Baptist Medical Center - (Australia) Naval Hospital Cherry Point (NC)
Montclair (AL) Incstar Corporation (MN) New Jersey Department of
Battelle (OH) Institute for Transfusion Health
BC Children’s Hospital (Canada) Medicine (PA) The New York Blood Center
Bethesda Hospital (OH) Iowa Methodist Medical Center New York State Department of
Bristol Regional Medical Center Japan Association Clinical Health
(TN) Reagents Ind. (Tokyo, Japan) New York State Library
Brooks Air Force Base (TX) Kaiser Permanente (CA) North Carolina Laboratory of
Broward General Medical Center Kenora-Rainy River Regional Public Health
(FL) Laboratory North Carolina School of
Canterbury Health Laboratories Program (Dryden, ON, Canada) Veterinary Medicine
(New Zealand) Laboratorio Clinico Borinquen North Central Bronx Hospital
CENTREX Clinical Laboratories (PR) (NY)
(NY) Laboratory Corporation of North Shore University Hospital
Chester County Hospital (PA) America (NC) (NY)
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles Lahey Hitchcock Medical Center Northwestern Memorial Hospital
(CA) (MA) (IL)
Children's Hospital Medical Lancaster General Hospital (PA) Ocean County Medical
Center (Akron, OH) Lawrence Memorial Hospital Laboratories (NJ)
Children's Hospital Medical (MA) Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
Center (Cincinnati, OH) Loma Linda University Medical (NJ)
Children's Hospital - New Center (CA) Our Lady of the Resurrection
Orleans (LA) Maine Medical Center Medical Center (IL)
City of Hope National Medical Malcolm Grow USAF Medical Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Center (CA) Center (MD) (CA)
City Hospital (WV) Martin Army Community PAPP Clinic P.A. (GA)
The Cleveland Clinic Foundation Hospital (Ft. Benning, GA) Pathogenesis Corp. (WA)
(OH) Martin Memorial Medical Center Pathology Associates
Coler Memorial Hospital (NY) (FL) Laboratories (CA)
Commonwealth of Kentucky Maryview Medical Center (VA) Permanente Medical Group (CA)
CompuNet Clinical Laboratories McKennan Hospital (SD) Polly Ryon Memorial Hospital
(OH) M.D. Anderson Hospital & (TX)
Dean Medical Center (WI) Tumor Institute (TX) Polyclinic Medical Center (PA)
Dhahran Health Center (Saudi MDS Laboratories (Etobicoke, Puckett Laboratories (MS)
Arabia) ON, Canada) Queens Hospital Center (NY)
Diagnostic Systems The Medical Center of Ocean The Queen’s Medical Center (HI)
Laboratories, Inc. (TX) County (NJ) Ravenswood Hospital Medical
Dianon Systems, Inc. (CT) Medical College of Virginia Center (IL)
Duke University Medical Center Hospital Rhode Island Department of
(NC) Melbourne Pathology (Australia) Health Laboratories
Dwight David Eisenhower Army Memorial Medical Center (IL) Riverside Clinical Laboratories
Medical Center (Ft. Gordon, Mercy & Baptist Medical Center (VA)
GA) (LA) Riverside-San Bernardino County
Easton Hospital (PA) Mercy Hospital (MN) Indian Health (CA)
East Texas Medical Center Methodist Hospital of Indiana St. Anthony’s Hospital (FL)
Ellis Fischel Cancer Center (MO) Methodist Hospitals of Memphis St. John Hospital and Medical
Elmhurst Memorial Hospital (IL) (TN) Center (MI)

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 viii

December 1996 M6-A

St. John's Hospital (IL) UNC Hospitals (NC) University of Utah Medical
St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital University of Alberta Hospitals Center
Center (NY) (Canada) University of Virginia Medical
St. Mary of the Plains Hospital University of California, San Center
(TX) Francisco VA (Albuquerque) Medical
St. Mary’s Regional Medical University of Cincinnati Medical Center (NM)
Center (NV) Center (OH) VA (Indianapolis) Medical Center
St. Paul Medical Center (TX) University Community Hospital (IN)
St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center (FL) VA (Jackson) Medical Center
(MN) University of Florida (MS)
San Francisco General Hospital University of Hawaii at Manoa VA (Miami) Medical Center (FL)
(CA) University Hospital (Gent) VA (Milwaukee) Medical Center
Shadyside Hospital (PA) (Belgium) (WI)
Shanghai Center for the Clinical University Hospital (London, VA (Perry Point) Medical Center
Laboratory (China) ON, Canada) (MD)
Shore Memorial Hospital (NJ) University Hospital (IN) Veterans General Hospital
Sinai Hospital of Detroit (MI) University Hospital of (Republic of China)
SmithKline Beecham Clinical Cleveland (OH) Warde Medical Laboratory (MI)
Laboratories (GA) The University Hospitals (OK) Wilford Hall USAF Medical
SmithKline Beecham Clinical University of Medicine & Center (TX)
Laboratories (TX) Dentistry, NJ University William Beaumont Hospital (MI)
SmithKline Beecham Clinical Hospital Wisconsin State Laboratory of
Laboratories (WA) University of Michigan Hygiene
Specialty Laboratories, Inc. (CA) University of Nebraska Medical York Hospital (PA)
Stanford Health Services (CA) Center Zale Lipshy University Hospital
SUNY @ Stony Brook (NY) (TX)
Travis Air Force Base (CA)
Tripler Army Medical Center (HI)


A. Samuel Koenig, III, M.D., Carl H. Blank, Dr.P.H. Robert F. Moran, Ph.D.,
President Wyoming Department of FCCM, FAIC
Family Medical Care Health Chiron Diagnostics Corporation

William F. Koch, Ph.D., Carl A. Burtis, Ph.D. David E. Nevalainen, Ph.D.

President Elect Oak Ridge National Laboratory Abbott Laboratories
National Institute of Standards
and Technology Sharon S. Ehrmeyer, Ph.D. Donald M. Powers, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin Johnson & Johnson Clinical
F. Alan Andersen, Ph.D., Diagnostics
Secretary Helen M. Free, D.Sc.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Bayer Corporation Eric J. Sampson, Ph.D.
Centers for Disease Control
Donna M. Meyer, Ph.D., Elizabeth D. Jacobson, Ph.D. and Prevention
Treasurer FDA Center for Devices and
St. Joseph Hospital Radiological Health Marianne C. Watters,
Charles F. Galanaugh, Past Kenneth D. McClatchey, M.D., Parkland Memorial Hospital
President D.D.S.
Becton Dickinson and Loyola University Medical Ann M. Willey, Ph.D.
Company Center New York State Department of
John V. Bergen, Ph.D.,
Executive Director

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 ix

December 1996 M6-A


Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i

Committee Membership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv

Active Membership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi

Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi

Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii

1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

2 Definition of Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

2.1 Primary Reference Medium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
2.2 Secondary Reference Medium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

3 Manufacturers’ Protocol for Testing Production Lots of Mueller–Hinton Agar . . . . . . . . . 2

3.1 Preparation of Control Cultures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
3.2 Performance of the Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
3.3 Interpretation of Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
3.4 Label Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

4 Storage and Control of Primary and Secondary Reference Media, and Stability Studies . . . 5
4.1 Storage and Control of Primary and Secondary Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
4.2 Stability Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

5 Selection of New Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

5.1 General Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
5.2 Protocol for Evaluating New Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
5.3 Selection Process for New Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
5.4 Criteria for the Selection of the Primary Reference Medium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
5.5 Criteria for the Selection of the Secondary Reference Medium . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Appendix A: Manufacturers’ Protocol—Data Sheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Appendix B: Statistical Calculation for the Selection of New Reference Media . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Summary of Comments and Subcommittee Responses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Related NCCLS Publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 x

December 1996 M6-A


This standard is the result of the comprehensive efforts of the NCCLS Subcommittee on Culture Media.
The project had four objectives:

! To evaluate the extent of variation of current manufactured lots of Mueller–Hinton agar

! To select a primary reference lot of medium that would become a "gold standard" for the
evaluation of Mueller–Hinton agar and the selection of secondary reference standard lots

! To select a reference lot of medium that could be used directly by manufacturers for the
standardization of production lots of Mueller–Hinton agar

! To develop a protocol that manufacturers could use to evaluate the performance of

Mueller–Hinton agar in comparison with the reference medium.

The subcommittee addressed the first two of these objectives in 1982 by organizing a controlled,
blinded, multicenter study involving five independent laboratories. For the study, seven manufacturers
each provided 25 kg of Mueller–Hinton agar in bottles containing 100 grams. These lots were coded
and distributed by the Biological Products Division, Centers for Disease Control (CDC; now Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention). The control organisms were supplied from a single lot by the American
Type Culture Collection. Technologists from the participating laboratories were trained to perform
standard disk diffusion testing in a course given at the CDC to ensure uniform methodology. In addition
to the five independent laboratories, five manufacturers' laboratories also participated, but in the
analysis of the results, only data from the independent laboratories were used.

The data from the study were statistically analyzed at the Cleveland Clinic. The variables included:

! Precision of the zone diameter readings

! Daily variation in zone readings

! Interlaboratory variations

! The performance of each lot versus the criteria in the NCCLS standard M2 (Performance
Standards for Antimicrobial Disk Susceptibility Tests).

After examining the analyzed data, the subcommittee selected a single lot of Mueller–Hinton agar as
a primary reference medium. The following criteria were used for selecting the primary reference

! Disk diffusion testing yielded zone diameters with mean values that were close to the midpoint
of the control ranges recommended in the NCCLS standard M2.

! Minimal variability was detected.

! The medium met all other physical and chemical criteria set forth in the NCCLS standard M2.

Samples of the primary reference medium were then submitted to the participating media
manufacturers to provide them with a benchmark for producing production lots that would then
become candidates for the secondary reference medium. These candidate lots were tested at the
CDC and a secondary reference standard was selected on the basis of guidelines established by T.L.
Gavan, M.D., and G.W. Williams, Ph.D., at the Cleveland Clinic. A comprehensive report of this
project was presented at an American Society for Microbiology symposium.1,2 An historical review

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 xi

December 1996 M6-A

of the subcommittee’s development of reference standards for Mueller–Hinton agar has been

The secondary reference standard was used in conjunction with the manufacturers’ protocol
discussed in this document to standardize production lots of Mueller–Hinton agar. Initially, each
participating manufacturer submitted data to the subcommittee showing satisfactory performance of
three production lots of Mueller–Hinton agar. When this phase was completed, the manufacturers
could then label their products with a statement indicating that their Mueller–Hinton agar conforms
to NCCLS requirements (see Section 3.4). After submitting the results of three lots that meet the
acceptance criteria of the protocol, the manufacturers could continue to use the statement on the
label of any lot meeting the acceptance criteria of the protocol without submitting the results to the

In 1992, the subcommittee selected new primary and secondary reference standards from four
candidate lots.3 The primary standard was labeled lot C-90 and the secondary standard was labeled
A-90. Since that time, A-90 has been in use by dehydrated media manufacturers who incorporate
the label statement in this standard onto their product labels.

In 1994, the subcommittee organized a project to select replacement standards. This time there
were five participating manufacturers and three test sites. Each of the five manufacturers submitted
a candidate lot in the form of 350 x 100 g glass jars, and testing was completed at the three test
sites in February 1995. A statistical analysis has been completed and the data are being reviewed.

The definitions and applications of the primary and secondary reference standards have been
changed in this edition, as indicated in Section 2. In addition, there is a clarification of the reading
of the inhibition zone for the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain (ATCC®
43300) and an increase in the incubation times of cultures during inoculum preparation. There has
also been a clarification of the acceptance criteria for those drug–organism combinations with only
four replicates.

George L. Evans, Ph.D.

Chairholder, Subcommittee on Culture Media

Universal Precautions

Because it is often impossible to know which might be infectious, all patient blood specimens are to
be treated with universal precautions. Guidelines for specimen handling are available from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [MMWR 1987; 36 (suppl 2S): 2S-18S]. NCCLS
document M29-T2, Protection of Laboratory Workers from Infectious Disease Transmitted by Blood,
Body Fluids, and Tissue—Second Edition; Tentative Guideline, deals specifically with this issue.

Key Words

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing, disk diffusion, Mueller–Hinton agar.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 xii

December 1996 M6-A


The subcommittee acknowledges the efforts of Aaron Lane, who was a member of the
subcommittee until his retirement from Difco Laboratories. The encouragement, support, and
sharing of knowledge he provided to the subcommittee from the beginning of this project
contributed significantly to its success. The subcommittee also acknowledges the leadership and
expertise of Harry A. Frankel, M.A., S.M. (AAM) (Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, New York, New York) and
Helen M. Pollock, Ph.D. (University of South Alabama Medical Center, Mobile, Alabama), who were
co-chairholders of the subcommittee at the time of the development of the proposed standard.

The subcommittee is grateful to Phyllis Pienta and the American Type Culture Collection for the
coding and storage of candidate lots, as well as shipping of these lots to the test sites. The
subcommittee is also grateful to the American Type Culture Collection for the donation of test
cultures and to Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems and Difco Laboratories for the donation of
susceptibility testing disks.

The subcommittee acknowledges the technical assistance of Dr. George Williams and Sarah B.
Forsythe of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation for statistical analysis of the data generated in the
selection of the first reference standards and Betty Stephenson of Becton Dickinson for the analysis
of data generated in the selection process for the new reference media.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 xiii

December 1996 M6-A

Protocols For Evaluating Dehydrated Mueller–Hinton Agar;

Approved Standard
1 Introduction 2 Definition of Reference Media

The NCCLS disk diffusion standard M2 2.1 Primary Reference Medium

(Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Disk
Susceptibility Tests) recommends the use of The primary reference medium is a coded lot
Mueller–Hinton agar for routine susceptibility of Mueller–Hinton agar selected by the NCCLS
testing for the following reasons: Subcommittee on Culture Media. It is stored
at a facility selected by the subcommittee and
! It shows fairly good batch-to-batch is tested at one-year intervals to determine
reproducibility stability. Past experience with the first
primary reference standard (lot 5) indicates
! It is low in sulfonamide, trimethoprim, that the dehydrated medium has excellent
and tetracycline inhibitors stability (about 10 years) when stored in
sealed glass jars at controlled room
! It gives satisfactory growth of most temperature.
nonfastidious pathogens
The primary reference medium is provided to
! A large amount of data have been manufacturers of dehydrated Mueller–Hinton
collected from antimicrobial suscepti- agar for evaluation of production lots. The
bility tests with this medium. primary reference medium is also distributed
for stability testing and for the development
A report of a multicenter, international of new primary and secondary reference
collaborative study by Ericsson and Sherris media. The manufacturer of this lot is only
presents data on world-wide antibiotic known by the coding laboratory. New
susceptibility testing using Mueller–Hinton reference media will be selected whenever
agar and other culture media.4 This study appropriate; i.e., when the current supply
discloses many variables that affect the size nears depletion (<5,000 g), or shows signs
of zones of inhibition. Among the critical of deterioration or unsatisfactory performance.
elements that contribute to variation are the
culture media used in agar diffusion tests. 2.2 Secondary Reference Medium
Recent studies add considerable support for
developing more exacting performance criteria The secondary reference medium is a coded
for Mueller– Hinton agar.5-8 These studies lot of Mueller–Hinton agar with performance
indicate that an objective evaluation of the characteristics that are similar to the primary
extent of variation of Mueller–Hinton agar is reference medium, as determined by the
needed. This document provides protocols for protocol in this standard (Section 5.2). The
evaluating production lots of Mueller–Hinton main purpose of this medium is for use as a
agar and for the selection of standard back-up for the primary reference standard
reference lots of this medium. These when its supply is threatened, or performance
acceptance criteria apply only to disk diffusion becomes unsatisfactory. This medium is
procedures. They do not qualify provided to manufacturers of dehydrated
Mueller–Hinton agar for other methods, such Mueller– Hinton agar for their use in
as agar dilution or antibiotic gradient. Details evaluating production lots only when the
of the disk diffusion procedure appear in primary reference medium is not available.
several publications,9-11 including NCCLS The stability testing is performed at the same
document M2 (Performance Standards for intervals as for the primary reference medium
Antimicrobial Disk Susceptibility Tests). (see Section 4). The manufacturer of this lot
is only known by the coding laboratory.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 1

December 1996 M6-A

3 Manufacturers’ Protocol for desired. Dispense 0.5 mL of the sus-

Testing Production Lots of Mueller– pension into small, sterile vials. Store
the vials at !60 EC, or a lower temper-
Hinton Agar ature. With this method, cultures
should be viable for at least 1 year.
Upon request, manufacturers of dehydrated Other methods of preparing stock
Mueller–Hinton agar are provided with ad- cultures may be used if they provide
equate amounts of the primary reference adequate viability and stability.
medium for evaluating the performance of
production lots, according to the following 3.1.4 The day before the inoculation of the
protocol. plates (day 1), thaw a vial of each of
the control cultures that will be
3.1 Preparation of Control Cultures needed. Inoculate each culture onto a
plate of TSA with 5% sheep blood
3.1.1 Stock cultures for this procedure are and incubate it for 18–24 hours at 35
prepared from lyophilized cultures ob- EC in ambient air. After incubation,
tained from ATCC®. Reconstitute check for purity. If satisfactory, these
these cultures according to the direct- plates are then used to prepare
ions obtained from ATCC. The standardized inoculum, as described in
cultures required are Staphylococcus M2 (Performance Standards for
aureus ATCC 25923, Escherichia coli Antimicrobial Disk Susceptibility
ATCC 25922, Pseudomonas Tests).
aeruginosa ATCC 27853,
Enterococcus faecalis ATCC 33186 NOTE: The incubation period for plate
(or ATCC 29212), S. aureus ATCC cultures used to prepare
43300, and E. coli ATCC 35218. inoculum is not critical for the
organisms used in this
3.1.2 Using a sterile loop, inoculate by protocol. It may be from 16
streaking two or three soybean-casein to 24 hours. A sufficient
digest agar (tryptic soy agar; TSA) incubation period might be
with 5% sheep blood plates with the needed so that the test plates
suspension in the reconstituted vial for (containing disks) can be read
each control culture. Incubate the during normal working hours
inoculated plates for 18–24 hours at after a 16- to 18-hour
35 EC in ambient air. incubation.

3.1.3 After incubation, check for purity and 3.1.5 Periodically renew stock cultures from
harvest the entire growth from the fresh, lyophilized cultures obtained
plates and suspend it in soybean- from ATCC.
case-in digest broth (tryptic soy broth;
TSB) containing 15% glycerol. To 3.2 Performance of the Test
prepare this medium, dissolve 30 g of
the dehydrated broth medium in 3.2.1 Perform the standard disk diffusion
approximately 500 mL of deionized test, while adhering strictly to the
water and add 150 mL of glycerol. procedure and time restrictions as
Adjust the volume to 1L, mix well, described in the NCCLS standard M2
and sterilize it at 121 oC for 15 (Performance Standards for Antimicro-
minutes. The suspension may be bial Disk Susceptibility Tests).
adjusted to the turbidity of a 0.5
McFarland standard (about 1 to 2 x 3.2.2 Perform testing according to the
108 CFU/mL), if a known viability is following schedule:

ATCC is a registered trademark of the American
Type Culture Collection.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 2

December 1996 M6-A

Day 1 or on the petri dish covers

when the plates are
1. Medium preparation: Unless in- inoculated.
structed otherwise on the
label, add 38.0 g of the 2. Pick several colonies from the
dehydrated medium to 1 L of plate cultures of the control
deionized or purified (USP) organisms and prepare a
water. Boil for 1 minute and standardized inoculum by
sterilize at 121 oC for 15 suspending the growth in TSB
minutes. Cool to approx- and adjusting to the turbidity
imately 50 oC before pouring of a 0.5 McFarland standard
plates. (approximately 1 to 2 x 108
CFU/mL) as described in the
2. Pour plates to achieve a depth NCCLS standard M2.
of 4 to 5 mm (usually 70 mL
for 150-mm-style plates). Pre- 3. Inoculate the three replicate
pare three plates of each plates of each medium with
medium (production lot and the standardized inoculum of
the primary reference each of the following control
standard) for each of the first cultures: S. aureus ATCC
three control cultures listed in 25923, E. coli ATCC 25922,
Section 3.1.1. Prepare one and P. aeruginosa ATCC
plate of each medium for each 27853. Inoculate one plate
of the remaining three control with each of the following
cultures and one plate for pH control cultures: E. faecalis
determination. ATCC 33186 (or ATCC
29212), S. aureus ATCC
3. Measure the pH of both media 43300, and E. coli ATCC
at 25 oC as described in M2. 35218. Inoculate plates so
The pH should be 7.2 to 7.4. that no more than 15 minutes
Record the pH of the test lot elapse between the time the
and the reference lot on the suspension is adjusted and all
manufacturers’ protocol report plates are inoculated. Each
form (Appendix A). control organism may be
tested on different days.
4. Thaw frozen stock cultures
and subculture them to TSA 4. Dispense the appropriate anti-
with 5% sheep blood plates, microbial disks onto each plate
as described in Section 3.1.4. according to the protocol de-
scribed in Appendix A.
Day 2
5. To the plate with E. faecalis
1. Examine the plates prepared ATCC 33186 (or ATCC
on Day 1. If excess surface 29212), apply two disks of
moisture is present, the plates trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole
should be placed in an for the thymidine test. To the
incubator (35 °C) or a laminar plate with S. aureus ATCC
flow hood at room 43300, apply two disks of
temperature with lids ajar until oxacillin for the MRSA test.
the excess surface moisture is To the plate with E. coli ATCC
lost by evaporation (usually 10 35218, apply two disks of
to 30 minutes). The surface amoxicillin/clavulanic acid.
should be moist, but no
droplets of moisture should be 6. Incubate the plates agar side
on the surface of the medium up (lid side down) for 16 to 18

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 3

December 1996 M6-A

hours (24 hours for S. aureus aeruginosa ATCC 27853. Calculate

43300) at 35 oC in ambient the difference between the mean
air. values for the production lot and the
mean values for the reference
Day 3 medium, and record the results on the
data sheet (Appendix A).
1. After incubation, measure the
diameter of each zone of 3.3.2 For E. faecalis ATCC 33186 (or ATCC
inhibition to the nearest 0.1 29212), S. aureus ATCC 43300, and
mm using calipers (those with E. coli ATCC 35218, calculate the
a digital readout are recom- mean of the two zone diameters for
mended) held against the back the production lot and the reference
of the culture plate, which is standard. Record the results on the
illuminated with a light that is data sheet (Appendix A).
above the plate (reflected
light), and with a black, non- 3.3.3 For acceptable lots, the difference in
reflective surface in the back- the mean zone diameters determined
ground. The plate may be laid in Section 3.3.1 must not be greater
over a black, nonreflective sur- than 2.0 mm for 90% of the
face with a light source that is antimicrobial agent–organism
above and behind the plate at combinations and none may exceed a
a 45 oC angle opposite from 3.0-mm difference. For E. faecalis
the reader. Since this protocol ATCC 33186 (or ATCC 29212) and
measures the difference in the trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, the
mean zone diameters of two inhibition zone must be equal to, or
lots of media, the important greater than, 20 mm, with clarity
factor is that all the zones are comparable to the reference medium.
measured in precisely the For S. aureus ATCC 43300, there
same manner. For S. aureus should be no zone, or a very hazy
ATCC 43300, the zone of zone with growth up to the oxacillin
inhibition should be carefully disk, after 24-hour incubation. For E.
examined with transmitted coli ATCC 35218, the mean zone
light, to detect hazy growth or diameter with amoxicillin/clavulanic
small colonies within the zone. acid should be 17 to 21 mm. If the
reference medium does not produce
2. Record results on the data satisfactory results with E. faecalis
sheet (Appendix A) as de- ATCC 33186 (or ATCC 29212), S.
scribed in Sections 3.3.1 and aureus ATCC 43300, or E. coli ATCC
3.3.2. If, in a particular antimi- 35218, then that test must be
crobial agent–organism combi- repeated.
nation, three replicates are not
obtained because a disk failed 3.3.4 For acceptable lots, the pH value must
to dispense, fell off the agar be 7.2 to 7.4.
when inverted, etc., the
testing must be repeated for 3.4 Label Statement
that combination.
For acceptable lots, the following statement
3.3 Interpretation of Results may be added to the product label:

3.3.1 For each medium (production and "This lot of Mueller–Hinton agar has been
reference standard), calculate the tested according to, and meets the
mean of the three zone diameters for acceptance limits of, the current M6 protocol
each antimicrobial agent–organism published by the NCCLS.”
combination with S. aureus ATCC
25923, E. coli ATCC 25922, and P.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 4

December 1996 M6-A

The basis for approval of the label statement 4.2.2 Samples of the primary and secondary
for each manufacturer is data from three reference lots shall be sent to two
consecutive production lots. Review of these manufacturers for determination of
data by the subcommittee is required. This moisture, pH, and gel strength. The
process is necessary only for the initial procedures for these tests are the
submission. same as those used by the
manufacturers’ laboratory.
4 Storage and Control of Primary
and Secondary Reference Media, and 4.2.3 Disks to be used for the stability tests
shall be within 95 to 130% of labelled
Stability Studies potency and shall be supplied by one
manufacturer, who will determine the
4.1 Storage and Control of Primary and disks' potency using the FDA-re-
Secondary Reference Media commended assays just before
shipping them. The disk content is
The primary and secondary reference media the same as that in Table 3 of M2.
are packaged in 100-g quantities in glass jars; The disks shall be stored at !20EC or
they are stored at a facility approved by the lower and shalll be used until their
NCCLS Subcommittee on Culture Media. respective expiration dates. If
Inventory of these reference materials is made discrepancies are observed during the
semi-annually and reported to the Chairholder stability program, disks shall be re-
of the NCCLS Subcommittee on Culture assayed to determine the level of
Media, or to the NCCLS staff liaison. antimicrobial agent.
Shipments of either the primary or secondary
reference medium can be made only with the 4.2.4 The stability testing shall be
approval of the Chairholder of the NCCLS conducted by a laboratory approved
Subcommittee on Culture Media. by the subcommittee. The procedure
is the same as for the manufacturers’
4.2 Stability Studies protocol, except that a total of six
replicates of each antimicrobial
The primary and secondary reference media agent–organism combination is tested.
are tested every twelve months or until test If, for any reason, six replicate zones
data indicate that a different schedule is are not obtained for a given
feasible. The testing is carried out according antimicrobial agent– organism
to the procedures described below and combination, the test should be
includes the determination of moisture (loss repeated.
on drying), gel strength, and pH.
Specifications for gel strength and moisture 4.2.5 After 16 to 18 hours of incubation (24
have not been established at this time. hours for S. aureus ATCC 43300), the
zones shall be measured by two
4.2.1 For stability testing, lyophilized vials persons. One of the readers, insofar
of the ATCC control cultures shall be as is possible, shall be the same for
reconstituted, and stock cultures shall each annual stability check.
be prepared, as described in the
manufacturers’ protocol. The control 4.2.6 Data from the stability tests shall be
strains are E. coli ATCC 25922, S. reviewed by the NCCLS
aureus ATCC 25923, P. aeruginosa Subcommittee on Culture Media. Any
ATCC 27853, E. faecalis ATCC significant change in the performance,
33186, S. aureus ATCC 43300, and moisture, pH, or gel strength shall be
E. coli ATCC 35218. For stability reported to users of the reference
testing of reference media, ATCC media.
29212 cannot be substituted for
ATCC 33186 (see Section

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 5

December 1996 M6-A

5 Selection of New Reference only by the facility receiving the

Media candidate lots.

5.1.3 Labels applied by the designated

The procedure that follows is used to evaluate
facility convey the following
candidate lots for primary and secondary
reference media when the supply of existing
media is close to being depleted, or when
! Mueller–Hinton agar
results of the stability tests indicate a signifi-
! NCCLS code no.
cant change. Changes in physical quality of
! Candidate Reference Standard
the medium are indicated by caking of the
! Date
medium, or a pH below 7.2 or above 7.4. An
! Use 38.0 g/L
increase in moisture content, or a change in
gel strength can suggest deterioration.
5.1.4 At least 500 g of each of the
Although no values for gel strength have been
candidate lots and an adequate supply
established at this time that would be a
of the current primary reference
reason for rejection, a change of ± 10% in a
medium are then sent to the
given twelve-month period would signal the
independent investigators to be tested
need for replacement media. The process of
using the procedure described below.
selecting new lots may be initiated every five
At least two independent investigators
years for either of the reference media, or
are solicited and selected by the
sooner, if necessary.
NCCLS Subcommittee on Culture
5.1 General Process
5.1.5 Antimicrobial susceptibility disks are
5.1.1 When new primary or secondary refer-
supplied by one manufacturer at the
ence lots are needed, at least three
request of the subcommittee. The
manufacturers are asked to participate
potency and storage are as indicated
in the process. They are provided
in Section 4.1.3.
with at least 600 g of the primary
reference medium and asked to
5.1.6 Using the protocol in Section 5.2, the
prepare at least 35 kg of a new lot or
independent laboratories then test the
select 35 kg from a current production
candidate lots in parallel with the
lot that produces satisfactory results
primary reference lot.
when tested in parallel with the
NCCLS primary reference medium.
5.1.7 A final decision on the selection of a
The candidate lot selected is
primary and secondary reference med-
dispensed in amounts of 100 g into
ium is then made by the
350 jars. The jars are provided by one
subcommittee, using the selection
of the manufacturers. No labels are
criteria given in Section 5.4.
placed on the jars. Only the outer
shipping container indicates the name
5.2 Protocol for Evaluating New Refer-
and address of the manufacturer. The
candidate lots are shipped to an ence Media
independent facility designated by the
NCCLS Subcommittee on Culture 5.2.1 The control cultures for this procedure
Media. are prepared in the same manner as is
described in Section 3.1. The
5.1.2 The candidate lots of Mueller–Hinton following control cultures are used in
agar are logged in and appropriately this protocol:
coded at the designated facility. The
jars from each of the manufacturers S. aureus ATCC 25923
are then labeled with the appropriate E. coli ATCC 25922
information indicated in Section 5.1.3. P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853
Codes are confidential and are known

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 6

December 1996 M6-A
E. faecalis ATCC 33186 determination, prepare 500 mL
S. aureus ATCC 43300 of each of the candidate lots
E. coli ATCC 35218. and the reference lot. If more
than three candidate lots are
5.2.2 For S. aureus ATCC 25923, E. coli to be tested, increase the
ATCC 25922, and P. aeruginosa volume of the primary
ATCC 27853, thirty replicate zone reference medium pro-
diameters with each candidate lot and portionately.
the primary reference lot are required.
For E. faecalis ATCC 33186, S. 3. Measure the pH of each of the
aureus ATCC 43300, and E. coli candidate lots and the refer-
ATCC 35218, only four replicates are ence lot at 25 oC, as described
needed. in the NCCLS standard M2.
Round off the readings to the
5.2.3 Performance of the Test nearest 0.1 pH units. The pH
should be 7.2 to 7.4.
The general procedure is the same as is
described in Section 3.2, but with an 4. Thaw a frozen vial of the
expanded test battery. Because of the need control culture to be used and
for thirty replicates with the first three control subculture it to blood agar
cultures with each medium (several candidate plates, as described in Section
lots and the reference lot), it is recommended 3.1.4.
that only one culture be tested in each three-
day period. If more than three candidate lots Day 2
are to be tested, the testing may require
additional three-day periods and an additional 1. Examine the plates prepared
amount of primary reference medium. on Day 1. If excess surface
moisture is present, the plates
Day 1 should be allowed to dry as
described in Section 3.2.2,
1. For thirty replicate plates that Day 2(1).
are required for the first three
cultures, approximately 2.5 L 2. For the first three cultures in
of each of the candidate lots Section 5.2.1, pick ten well-
and the primary reference lot isolated colonies from the
are prepared. Increase the blood agar plates and suspend
volume of primary reference in each of three 10-mL tubes
medium, as needed, if more of TSB. Adjust the
than three candidate lots are suspension to the turbidity of
to be tested. Boil the media a 0.5 McFarland standard as
for 1 minute and autoclave for described in the NCCLS
15 minutes at 121 oC. Cool standard M2. This should
the media to 45 to 50 oC and provide sufficient inoculum for
pour 70 mL into each of at 120 plates (thirty of each of
least thirty large petri dishes the candidate lots and thirty of
(150 mm-style) for each the primary reference lot). If
medium. more than three candidate lots
are to be tested, prepare
2. For the four replicates required additional inoculum, as
for the next three cultures and needed, or test on separate
an extra plate for pH days. For the remaining three
cultures, only one tube of in-
oculum is needed.
ATCC 29212 may not be substituted (see Section

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 7

December 1996 M6-A

3. Because of the time required ! Cefoperazone

to inoculate 120 plates, ! Imipenem
refrigerate the adjusted ! Cefotaxime
suspension or readjust the ! Piperacillin
turbidity after every sixty ! Ceftazidime
plates are inoculated. ! Ticarcillin/clavulanic
4. When inoculating thirty repli- ! Ciprofloxacin
cates of each medium for the ! Tobramycin
first three cultures, alternate
inoculation of the primary For E. faecalis ATCC 33186,
reference lot and each of the use the following antimicrobial
candidate lots. Label the disks:
plates in the order of
inoculation (from 1 to 30). ! Trimethoprim/sulfame-
5. Dispense the appropriate anti- ! Trimethoprim
microbial disks as follows (the ! Vancomycin
disk content is the same as in
Table 3 of the NCCLS For S. aureus ATCC 43300,
standard M2): use the following antimicrobial
For S. aureus ATCC 25923,
use the following antimicrobial ! Methicillin
disks: ! Oxacillin

! Amoxicillin/clavulanic For E. coli ATCC 35218, use

acid the following antimicrobial
! Erythromycin disks:
! Ampicillin/sulbactam
! Oxacillin ! Amoxicillin/clavulanic
! Cephalothin acid
! Tetracycline ! Ampicillin/sulbactam
! Ciprofloxacin ! Ticarcillin/clavulanic
! Vancomycin acid

For E. coli ATCC 25922, use 6. Incubate all plates, agar side
the following antimicrobial up, at 35 oC for 16 to 18
disks: hours (24 hours for S. aureus
ATCC 43300).
! Ampicillin
! Chloramphenicol Day 3
! Cefotaxime
! Gentamicin 1. To prevent changes in zone
! Cefoxitin diameters that might occur
! Sulfisoxazole because of the long time re-
! Cephalothin quired to measure them, re-
! Tetracycline move the plates from the incu-
bator and place at 2–8 oC.
For P. aeruginosa ATCC
27853, use the following 2. For the cultures with thirty
antimicrobial disks: replicates, remove the first ten
plates of each medium (forty
! Amikacin plates) that were inoculated
! Gentamicin from the refrigerator and leave

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 8

December 1996 M6-A

them at room temperature for reference media are retained at the

15 minutes. Measure the same facility and are distributed as
zones of inhibition to the described in Section 2 of this docu-
nearest 0.1 mm with the ment.
digital readout calipers,
alternating the reading as was 5.3.2 Disposition of rejected lots of Mueller–
done for the inoculation; i.e., Hinton agar that have been submitted
read the forty plates in the by manufacturers as candidate refer-
same sequence as they were ence lots is determined by the sub-
inoculated. Remove the next committee. They are not returned to
forty plates from the re- the manufacturers because this would
frigerator, allow them to come compromise the confidentiality of the
to room temperature, and con- process.
tinue as previously described.
Continue with the last set of 5.4 Criteria for the Selection of the
forty plates. Primary Reference Medium

3. Record the thirty replicate 5.4.1 The mean zone diameters for E. coli
zone diameters for the first ATCC 25922, S. aureus ATCC
three cultures for each of the 25923, and P. aeruginosa ATCC
candidate lots and the 27853 should be within 2.0 mm of
reference lot, and calculate the the midpoint of the quality control
means. If less than thirty ranges in Table 3 of M2 and within
replicate zones are obtained the range of these zone diameters,
because a disk was not insofar as they are not the subject of
dispensed, or it fell off the investigation.
agar when the plate was
inverted, it is acceptable to 5.4.2 The variability of the zone diameters
use the mean of at least should not exceed two standard
twenty-eight replicates. deviations from the mean. The
Otherwise, all thirty replicates variance (F2) shall be # 0.5 mm.
for that particular drug-
organism combination must be 5.4.3 The medium must have a pH of 7.2 to
repeated for that lot. 7.4.

4. For the last three cultures, all 5.4.4 When compared with the primary
plates may be removed from reference medium, 90% of the mean
the refrigerator at one time for zone diameters of the candidate lot
measurement of zone must be within 2.0 mm of the mean
diameters. values of the reference lot and all
must be within 3.0 mm.
5. Record the zone diameters of
the last three cultures and 5.4.5 The Student t values should be within
calculate the means. For E. +2.663 and !2.663 as determined by
faecalis ATCC 33186, record the calculation in Appendix B. This
the clarity of the zone, as well critical value of t assumes equal
as the diameter. samples of thirty each (reference lot
and test lot) and " = 0.01.
5.3 Selection Process for New Refer-
ence Media 5.4.6 There must be no discernable zone of
inhibition (hazy growth or tiny
5.3.1 The subcommittee selects a new pri- colonies up to the disk) for the S.
mary and secondary reference medium aureus ATCC 43300 culture with
based on the criteria in Sections 5.4 oxacillin after a 24-hour incubation
and 5.5. The primary and secondary

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 9

December 1996 M6-A

period. A zone of inhibition may be

observed with methicillin.

5.4.7 The medium must be relatively free

of thymidine, as shown by zone
diameter with trimethoprim/
sulfamethoxazole and E. faecalis
ATCC 33186 that are of comparable
clarity to the zones produced by the
primary reference medium and are at
least 20 mm in diameter. Because it
is less sensitive in detecting
thymidine, E. faecalis ATCC 29212 is
not used for the selection and stability
testing of reference media.

5.4.8 All of the mean zone diameters

obtained with E. coli ATCC 35218
shall be within 3.0 mm of the mean
values of the reference medium.

5.5 Criteria for the Selection of the

Secondary Reference Medium

5.5.1 The secondary reference medium lot

ranks second best according to the
criteria in Section 5.4 and it also
meets the following criteria:

5.5.2 The pH is 7.2 to 7.4.

5.5.3 Satisfactory trimethoprim/sulfametho-

xazole zones are produced with E.
faecalis ATCC 33186.

5.5.4 No more than three mean zone dia-

meters (thirty replicates) have a
difference greater than 3.0 mm
compared with the new primary
reference medium.

5.5.5 The same results are obtained with S.

aureus ATCC 43300 as is stated in
Section 5.4.6.

5.5.6 If there is no suitable candidate for a

secondary reference medium, another
study shall be conducted. In this
study, the candidate lots are
compared with the new reference
medium. A secondary reference
medium is then selected using the
criteria in Section 5.4.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 10

December 1996 M6-A


1. Pollock HM, Gavan TL. aeruginosa. Antimicrob Agents

Standardization of Mueller–Hinton Chemother 1978; 14:360–367.
agar. In: Symposium, Current Status
of Susceptibility Testing: Role of the 7. Reller LB et al. Antibiotic
National Committee for Clinical susceptibility testing of Pseudomonas
Laboratory Standards Consensus aeruginosa: Selection of a control
Mechanism, 83rd Annual Meeting, strain and criteria for magnesium and
American Society for Microbiology, calcium content of media. J Infect Dis
1983. 1974; 130:454– 463.

2. Pollock HM et al. Selection of a ref- 8. Waterworth P. Uniformity of

erence lot of Mueller–Hinton agar. J sensitivity test media. J Antimicrob
Clin Microbiol 1986; 24:1–6. Chemother 1978;4:4–6.

3. Evans GL. In search of the golden 9. Acar JF, Goldstein FW. Disk suscepti-
kilo— the development of reference bility test. In: Antibiotics in Laboratory
standards for Mueller–Hinton agar. Medicine, 3rd ed. Lorian V, ed. Balti-
Clin Microbiol Newsletter more: Williams & Wilkins, 1991: pp.
1993;15:156–160. 17–52.

4. Ericsson HM, Sherris JC. Antibiotic 10. Woods GL, Washington JA. Anti-
sensitivity testing. Report of an inter- bacterial susceptibility tests: dilution
national collaborative study. Acta and diffusion test procedures. In:
Pathol Microbiol Scand 1971(suppl); Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 6th
217:1–90. ed. Murray PR et al, eds.
Washington, DC: American Society for
5. Knowles RC, Gilmore BF. Quality con- Microbiology, 1995: pp. 1327–1341.
trol of agar diffusion susceptibility
tests. Am J Clin Pathol 1981;76:590– 11. Munro S. Disk diffusion susceptibility
596. testing. In: Clinical Microbiology Pro-
cedures Handbook. Hindler J, section
6. Pollock HM et al. Effect of different ed; Isenberg HD, ed. Washington,
lots of Mueller–Hinton agar on the DC: American Society for
interpretation of the gentamicin Microbiology, 1992: pp.
susceptibility of Pseudomonas 5.1.1–5.1.30.

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December 1996 M6-A

Appendix A: Manufacturers’ Protocol—Data Sheet

Manufacturer Date
Mueller–Hinton Agar, Lot No. Expiration Date NCCLS Lot No.
pH: NCCLS Lot Test Lot (Specification = 7.2 to 7.4 )

Disk Content NCCLS Lot Test Lot

Antimicrobial Agent (F
Fg) 1 2 3 Mean 1 2 3 Mean Diff*

S. aureus 25923

Cephalothin 30

Ciprofloxacin 5

Erythromycin 15

Oxacillin 1

Tetracycline 30

Vancomycin 30

E. coli 25922

Ampicillin 10
acid 20/10

Cefotaxime 30

Cefoxitin 30

Cephalothin 30

Chloramphenicol 30

Gentamicin 10

sulfamethoxazole 1.25/23.75

P. aeruginosa 27853

Amikacin 30

Cefotaxime 30

Ceftazidime 30

Gentamicin 10

Imipenem 10

Piperacillin 100

E. faecalis - SXT Test: NCCLS Lot: mm; Test Lot: mm (Specification = $ 20 mm).
E. coli 35218 with amoxicillin/clavulanic acid: NCCLS Lot: mm; Test Lot: mm (Specification = 17–21 mm).
S. aureus 43300 with oxacillin (MRSA test): NCCLS Lot: mm; Test Lot: mm (Specification = very hazy to no zone).
*Diff = Difference, in mm, between the mean zone diameter of the test lot and the NCCLS lot. No more than 10%
(two means) may exceed a difference of 2.0 mm and none shall exceed a difference of 3.0 mm.

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December 1996 M6-A

Appendix B: Statistical Calculation for the Selection of New Reference Media

This method is based on the assumption that the maximum variance of zone diameters (s2) is 0.5
mm. A difference of 1 mm or more in the mean zone diameters of the test lot and the reference lot
can be detected with a probability of 99% for each antimicrobial agent–organism combination by a
two-sample t test with " = 0.01 (two-sided). If more than one candidate lot is evaluated in
comparison with the reference lot, an adjustment must be made by dividing the probability by the
number of lots tested.

1. Using the protocol in Section 5, determine the thirty replicate zone diameters for the reference
medium (r) and each of the test media (t) for the three cultures requiring 30 replicates for each
of the antimicrobial agents indicated for those organisms.

2. Calculate the mean (0) and variance (s2) for each set of thirty tests (n=30, or the actual number
of replicates) for each of the drug/organism combinations:

j xr or t
x̄r or t ' (1)
nr or t

j xr or

j xr or
2 t
nr or t (2)
sr2or t '
nr or t &1

3. Calculate the pooled variance (sp ):

2 2
(nr & 1) sr % (nt & 1) s t
sp2 '
n r % nt & 2

4. Calculate t:

x̄r & x̄t

t ' (4)
(1/nr % 1/nt) sp

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 13

December 1996 M6-A

Summary of Comments and Subcommittee Responses

M6-T: Protocols for Evaluating Production Lots of Mueller–Hinton Agar; Tentative Standard


1. Performance testing for dehydrated media does not include testing for the detection of
pneumococcal resistance to penicillin. Because this form of resistance is relatively new in the
United States, I believe that the performance of Mueller–Hinton agar at the manufacturers’ level
should be tested for the ability to detect it. One could extend this logic to include testing for all
of the recently recognized forms of non-beta-lactamase-mediated resistance to the
penicillin/ampicillin group of drugs. One should also consider testing for the ability to detect
vancomycin resistance in enterococci.

! Antimicrobial susceptibility testing of pneumococci requires the addition of 5% sheep blood to

Mueller–Hinton agar. Therefore, the complete medium must be quality-controlled. This type of
quality control is covered by NCCLS document M2. Special procedures for testing fastidious
and problem bacteria, such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci, appear in Table 7 of NCCLS
document M7.

2. It should be emphasized that the performance tests described in this standard apply only to
Mueller–Hinton agar that is intended to be used with disk-susceptibility testing. Nothing in this
method validates Mueller–Hinton agar for other purposes, such as agar-dilution testing or the E-
test. I think this should be stated explicitly in the protocol so that laboratories will continue to
do performance testing for agar dilution and antibiotic gradient as appropriate.

! This is stated in the Introduction of this edition.

3. Section 3.3.2 allows a manufacturer to use either E. faecalis ATCC 33186 or ATCC 29212.
The following sections, in particular Section 5.2.3, do not define which antibiotic should be
tested against ATCC 29212. Please clarify.

! This point is clarified in this edition. ATCC 29212 may be substituted for ATCC 33186 in the
manufacturers’ protocol (Section 3.1.1) but not in the selection or stability testing of reference
media (Sections 4.1.1 and 5.2.1).

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December 1996 M6-A

Related NCCLS Publications

M2-A5 Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Disk Susceptibility Testing–Fifth Edition;

Approved Standard (1993). American National Standard. M2-A5 includes the current
recommended techniques for disk susceptibility testing, criteria for quality control
testing, and updated tables for interpretive zone diameters.

M7-A3 Methods for Dilution Antimicrobial Susceptibility Tests for Bacteria that Grow
Aerobically–Third Edition; Approved Standard (1993). American National Standard.
M7-A3 discusses reference methods for the determination of minimum inhibitory
concentrations (MIC) of aerobic bacteria by broth macrodilution, broth microdilutioin, and
agar dilution.

M22-A Quality Assurance for Commercially Prepared Microbiological Culture Media; Approved
Standard (1990). M22-A addresses quality assurance procedures for manufacturers and
users of prepared, ready-to-use microbiological media.

M100-S6 Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Disk Susceptibility Testing; Sixth Informational
Supplement (1995). M100-S6 provides updated tables for NCCLS documents M2, M7,
and M11.

NCCLS VOL. 16 NO. 9 15