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Microbiology

9.2 Oxygen Requirements for Microbial Growth

Microbiology 9.2 Oxygen Requirements for Microbial Growth
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 An Invisible World
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Our Ancestors Knew
    3. 1.2 A Systematic Approach
    4. 1.3 Types of Microorganisms
    5. Summary
    6. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  3. 2 How We See the Invisible World
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Properties of Light
    3. 2.2 Peering Into the Invisible World
    4. 2.3 Instruments of Microscopy
    5. 2.4 Staining Microscopic Specimens
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  4. 3 The Cell
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Spontaneous Generation
    3. 3.2 Foundations of Modern Cell Theory
    4. 3.3 Unique Characteristics of Prokaryotic Cells
    5. 3.4 Unique Characteristics of Eukaryotic Cells
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  5. 4 Prokaryotic Diversity
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Prokaryote Habitats, Relationships, and Microbiomes
    3. 4.2 Proteobacteria
    4. 4.3 Nonproteobacteria Gram-Negative Bacteria and Phototrophic Bacteria
    5. 4.4 Gram-Positive Bacteria
    6. 4.5 Deeply Branching Bacteria
    7. 4.6 Archaea
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  6. 5 The Eukaryotes of Microbiology
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Unicellular Eukaryotic Parasites
    3. 5.2 Parasitic Helminths
    4. 5.3 Fungi
    5. 5.4 Algae
    6. 5.5 Lichens
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  7. 6 Acellular Pathogens
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Viruses
    3. 6.2 The Viral Life Cycle
    4. 6.3 Isolation, Culture, and Identification of Viruses
    5. 6.4 Viroids, Virusoids, and Prions
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  8. 7 Microbial Biochemistry
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Organic Molecules
    3. 7.2 Carbohydrates
    4. 7.3 Lipids
    5. 7.4 Proteins
    6. 7.5 Using Biochemistry to Identify Microorganisms
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  9. 8 Microbial Metabolism
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Energy, Matter, and Enzymes
    3. 8.2 Catabolism of Carbohydrates
    4. 8.3 Cellular Respiration
    5. 8.4 Fermentation
    6. 8.5 Catabolism of Lipids and Proteins
    7. 8.6 Photosynthesis
    8. 8.7 Biogeochemical Cycles
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  10. 9 Microbial Growth
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 How Microbes Grow
    3. 9.2 Oxygen Requirements for Microbial Growth
    4. 9.3 The Effects of pH on Microbial Growth
    5. 9.4 Temperature and Microbial Growth
    6. 9.5 Other Environmental Conditions that Affect Growth
    7. 9.6 Media Used for Bacterial Growth
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  11. 10 Biochemistry of the Genome
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Using Microbiology to Discover the Secrets of Life
    3. 10.2 Structure and Function of DNA
    4. 10.3 Structure and Function of RNA
    5. 10.4 Structure and Function of Cellular Genomes
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  12. 11 Mechanisms of Microbial Genetics
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 The Functions of Genetic Material
    3. 11.2 DNA Replication
    4. 11.3 RNA Transcription
    5. 11.4 Protein Synthesis (Translation)
    6. 11.5 Mutations
    7. 11.6 How Asexual Prokaryotes Achieve Genetic Diversity
    8. 11.7 Gene Regulation: Operon Theory
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  13. 12 Modern Applications of Microbial Genetics
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Microbes and the Tools of Genetic Engineering
    3. 12.2 Visualizing and Characterizing DNA, RNA, and Protein
    4. 12.3 Whole Genome Methods and Pharmaceutical Applications of Genetic Engineering
    5. 12.4 Gene Therapy
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  14. 13 Control of Microbial Growth
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 Controlling Microbial Growth
    3. 13.2 Using Physical Methods to Control Microorganisms
    4. 13.3 Using Chemicals to Control Microorganisms
    5. 13.4 Testing the Effectiveness of Antiseptics and Disinfectants
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  15. 14 Antimicrobial Drugs
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 History of Chemotherapy and Antimicrobial Discovery
    3. 14.2 Fundamentals of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
    4. 14.3 Mechanisms of Antibacterial Drugs
    5. 14.4 Mechanisms of Other Antimicrobial Drugs
    6. 14.5 Drug Resistance
    7. 14.6 Testing the Effectiveness of Antimicrobials
    8. 14.7 Current Strategies for Antimicrobial Discovery
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  16. 15 Microbial Mechanisms of Pathogenicity
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Characteristics of Infectious Disease
    3. 15.2 How Pathogens Cause Disease
    4. 15.3 Virulence Factors of Bacterial and Viral Pathogens
    5. 15.4 Virulence Factors of Eukaryotic Pathogens
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  17. 16 Disease and Epidemiology
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 The Language of Epidemiologists
    3. 16.2 Tracking Infectious Diseases
    4. 16.3 Modes of Disease Transmission
    5. 16.4 Global Public Health
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  18. 17 Innate Nonspecific Host Defenses
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 Physical Defenses
    3. 17.2 Chemical Defenses
    4. 17.3 Cellular Defenses
    5. 17.4 Pathogen Recognition and Phagocytosis
    6. 17.5 Inflammation and Fever
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  19. 18 Adaptive Specific Host Defenses
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 Overview of Specific Adaptive Immunity
    3. 18.2 Major Histocompatibility Complexes and Antigen-Presenting Cells
    4. 18.3 T Lymphocytes and Cellular Immunity
    5. 18.4 B Lymphocytes and Humoral Immunity
    6. 18.5 Vaccines
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  20. 19 Diseases of the Immune System
    1. Introduction
    2. 19.1 Hypersensitivities
    3. 19.2 Autoimmune Disorders
    4. 19.3 Organ Transplantation and Rejection
    5. 19.4 Immunodeficiency
    6. 19.5 Cancer Immunobiology and Immunotherapy
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  21. 20 Laboratory Analysis of the Immune Response
    1. Introduction
    2. 20.1 Polyclonal and Monoclonal Antibody Production
    3. 20.2 Detecting Antigen-Antibody Complexes
    4. 20.3 Agglutination Assays
    5. 20.4 EIAs and ELISAs
    6. 20.5 Fluorescent Antibody Techniques
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  22. 21 Skin and Eye Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 21.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Skin and Eyes
    3. 21.2 Bacterial Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    4. 21.3 Viral Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    5. 21.4 Mycoses of the Skin
    6. 21.5 Protozoan and Helminthic Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  23. 22 Respiratory System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 22.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Respiratory Tract
    3. 22.2 Bacterial Infections of the Respiratory Tract
    4. 22.3 Viral Infections of the Respiratory Tract
    5. 22.4 Respiratory Mycoses
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  24. 23 Urogenital System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 23.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Urogenital Tract
    3. 23.2 Bacterial Infections of the Urinary System
    4. 23.3 Bacterial Infections of the Reproductive System
    5. 23.4 Viral Infections of the Reproductive System
    6. 23.5 Fungal Infections of the Reproductive System
    7. 23.6 Protozoan Infections of the Urogenital System
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  25. 24 Digestive System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 24.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Digestive System
    3. 24.2 Microbial Diseases of the Mouth and Oral Cavity
    4. 24.3 Bacterial Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    5. 24.4 Viral Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    6. 24.5 Protozoan Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    7. 24.6 Helminthic Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  26. 25 Circulatory and Lymphatic System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 25.1 Anatomy of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    3. 25.2 Bacterial Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    4. 25.3 Viral Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    5. 25.4 Parasitic Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  27. 26 Nervous System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 26.1 Anatomy of the Nervous System
    3. 26.2 Bacterial Diseases of the Nervous System
    4. 26.3 Acellular Diseases of the Nervous System
    5. 26.4 Fungal and Parasitic Diseases of the Nervous System
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  28. A | Fundamentals of Physics and Chemistry Important to Microbiology
  29. B | Mathematical Basics
  30. C | Metabolic Pathways
  31. D | Taxonomy of Clinically Relevant Microorganisms
  32. E | Glossary
  33. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
  34. Index

Learning Objectives

  • Interpret visual data demonstrating minimum, optimum, and maximum oxygen or carbon dioxide requirements for growth
  • Identify and describe different categories of microbes with requirements for growth with or without oxygen: obligate aerobe, obligate anaerobe, facultative anaerobe, aerotolerant anaerobe, microaerophile, and capnophile
  • Give examples of microorganisms for each category of growth requirements

Ask most people “What are the major requirements for life?” and the answers are likely to include water and oxygen. Few would argue about the need for water, but what about oxygen? Can there be life without oxygen?

The answer is that molecular oxygen (O2) is not always needed. The earliest signs of life are dated to a period when conditions on earth were highly reducing and free oxygen gas was essentially nonexistent. Only after cyanobacteria started releasing oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis and the capacity of iron in the oceans for taking up oxygen was exhausted did oxygen levels increase in the atmosphere. This event, often referred to as the Great Oxygenation Event or the Oxygen Revolution, caused a massive extinction. Most organisms could not survive the powerful oxidative properties of reactive oxygen species (ROS), highly unstable ions and molecules derived from partial reduction of oxygen that can damage virtually any macromolecule or structure with which they come in contact. Singlet oxygen (O2•), superoxide (O2),(O2), peroxides (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH•), and hypochlorite ion (OCl), the active ingredient of household bleach, are all examples of ROS. The organisms that were able to detoxify reactive oxygen species harnessed the high electronegativity of oxygen to produce free energy for their metabolism and thrived in the new environment.

Oxygen Requirements of Microorganisms

Many ecosystems are still free of molecular oxygen. Some are found in extreme locations, such as deep in the ocean or in earth’s crust; others are part of our everyday landscape, such as marshes, bogs, and sewers. Within the bodies of humans and other animals, regions with little or no oxygen provide an anaerobic environment for microorganisms. (Figure 9.19).

a) A photograph of a bog. B) A photograph of cows.
Figure 9.19 Anaerobic environments are still common on earth. They include environments like (a) a bog where undisturbed dense sediments are virtually devoid of oxygen, and (b) the rumen (the first compartment of a cow’s stomach), which provides an oxygen-free incubator for methanogens and other obligate anaerobic bacteria. (credit a: modification of work by National Park Service; credit b: modification of work by US Department of Agriculture)

We can easily observe different requirements for molecular oxygen by growing bacteria in thioglycolate tube cultures. A test-tube culture starts with autoclaved thioglycolate medium containing a low percentage of agar to allow motile bacteria to move throughout the medium. Thioglycolate has strong reducing properties and autoclaving flushes out most of the oxygen. The tubes are inoculated with the bacterial cultures to be tested and incubated at an appropriate temperature. Over time, oxygen slowly diffuses throughout the thioglycolate tube culture from the top. Bacterial density increases in the area where oxygen concentration is best suited for the growth of that particular organism.

The growth of bacteria with varying oxygen requirements in thioglycolate tubes is illustrated in Figure 9.20. In tube A, all the growth is seen at the top of the tube. The bacteria are obligate (strict) aerobes that cannot grow without an abundant supply of oxygen. Tube B looks like the opposite of tube A. Bacteria grow at the bottom of tube B. Those are obligate anaerobes, which are killed by oxygen. Tube C shows heavy growth at the top of the tube and growth throughout the tube, a typical result with facultative anaerobes. Facultative anaerobes are organisms that thrive in the presence of oxygen but also grow in its absence by relying on fermentation or anaerobic respiration, if there is a suitable electron acceptor other than oxygen and the organism is able to perform anaerobic respiration. The aerotolerant anaerobes in tube D are indifferent to the presence of oxygen. They do not use oxygen because they usually have a fermentative metabolism, but they are not harmed by the presence of oxygen as obligate anaerobes are. Tube E on the right shows a “Goldilocks” culture. The oxygen level has to be just right for growth, not too much and not too little. These microaerophiles are bacteria that require a minimum level of oxygen for growth, about 1%–10%, well below the 21% found in the atmosphere.

Examples of obligate aerobes are Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis and Micrococcus luteus, a gram-positive bacterium that colonizes the skin. Neisseria meningitidis, the causative agent of severe bacterial meningitis, and N. gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of sexually transmitted gonorrhea, are also obligate aerobes.

A diagram of bacterial distribution in tubes. Tube A shows obligate aerobes which grow at the top of the tube. Tube B shows obligate anaerobes which grow at the bottom of the tube. Tube C shows facultative anaerobes which grow best at the top but also grow throughout the tube. Tube D shows aerotolerant anaerobes which grow equally well throughout. Tube E shows microaerophiles which grow just below the top of the tube.
Figure 9.20 Diagram of bacterial cell distribution in thioglycolate tubes.

Many obligate anaerobes are found in the environment where anaerobic conditions exist, such as in deep sediments of soil, still waters, and at the bottom of the deep ocean where there is no photosynthetic life. Anaerobic conditions also exist naturally in the intestinal tract of animals. Obligate anaerobes, mainly Bacteroidetes, represent a large fraction of the microbes in the human gut. Transient anaerobic conditions exist when tissues are not supplied with blood circulation; they die and become an ideal breeding ground for obligate anaerobes. Another type of obligate anaerobe encountered in the human body is the gram-positive, rod-shaped Clostridium spp. Their ability to form endospores allows them to survive in the presence of oxygen. One of the major causes of health-acquired infections is C. difficile, known as C. diff. Prolonged use of antibiotics for other infections increases the probability of a patient developing a secondary C. difficile infection. Antibiotic treatment disrupts the balance of microorganisms in the intestine and allows the colonization of the gut by C. difficile, causing a significant inflammation of the colon.

Other clostridia responsible for serious infections include C. tetani, the agent of tetanus, and C. perfringens, which causes gas gangrene. In both cases, the infection starts in necrotic tissue (dead tissue that is not supplied with oxygen by blood circulation). This is the reason that deep puncture wounds are associated with tetanus. When tissue death is accompanied by lack of circulation, gangrene is always a danger.

The study of obligate anaerobes requires special equipment. Obligate anaerobic bacteria must be grown under conditions devoid of oxygen. The most common approach is culture in an anaerobic jar (Figure 9.21). Anaerobic jars include chemical packs that remove oxygen and release carbon dioxide (CO2). An anaerobic chamber is an enclosed box from which all oxygen is removed. Gloves sealed to openings in the box allow handling of the cultures without exposing the culture to air (Figure 9.21).

a) A photo of a stack of agar plates in a chamber. B) A photo of a chamber with sleeves for arms.
Figure 9.21 (a) An anaerobic jar is pictured that is holding nine Petri plates supporting cultures. (b) Openings in the side of an anaerobic box are sealed by glove-like sleeves that allow for the handling of cultures inside the box. (credit a: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; credit b: modification of work by NIST)

Staphylococci and Enterobacteriaceae are examples of facultative anaerobes. Staphylococci are found on the skin and upper respiratory tract. Enterobacteriaceae are found primarily in the gut and upper respiratory tract but can sometimes spread to the urinary tract, where they are capable of causing infections. It is not unusual to see mixed bacterial infections in which the facultative anaerobes use up the oxygen, creating an environment for the obligate anaerobes to flourish.

Examples of aerotolerant anaerobes include lactobacilli and streptococci, both found in the oral microbiota. Campylobacter jejuni, which causes gastrointestinal infections, is an example of a microaerophile and is grown under low-oxygen conditions.

The optimum oxygen concentration, as the name implies, is the ideal concentration of oxygen for a particular microorganism. The lowest concentration of oxygen that allows growth is called the minimum permissive oxygen concentration. The highest tolerated concentration of oxygen is the maximum permissive oxygen concentration. The organism will not grow outside the range of oxygen levels found between the minimum and maximum permissive oxygen concentrations.

Check Your Understanding

  • Would you expect the oldest bacterial lineages to be aerobic or anaerobic?
  • Which bacteria grow at the top of a thioglycolate tube, and which grow at the bottom of the tube?

Case in Point

An Unwelcome Anaerobe

Charles is a retired bus driver who developed type 2 diabetes over 10 years ago. Since his retirement, his lifestyle has become very sedentary and he has put on a substantial amount of weight. Although he has felt tingling and numbness in his left foot for a while, he has not been worried because he thought his foot was simply “falling asleep.” Recently, a scratch on his foot does not seem to be healing and is becoming increasingly ugly. Because the sore did not bother him much, Charles figured it could not be serious until his daughter noticed a purplish discoloration spreading on the skin and oozing (Figure 9.22). When he was finally seen by his physician, Charles was rushed to the operating room. His open sore, or ulcer, is the result of a diabetic foot.

The concern here is that gas gangrene may have taken hold in the dead tissue. The most likely agent of gas gangrene is Clostridium perfringens, an endospore-forming, gram-positive bacterium. It is an obligate anaerobe that grows in tissue devoid of oxygen. Since dead tissue is no longer supplied with oxygen by the circulatory system, the dead tissue provides pockets of ideal environment for the growth of C. perfringens.

A surgeon examines the ulcer and radiographs of Charles’s foot and determines that the bone is not yet infected. The wound will have to be surgically debrided (debridement refers to the removal of dead and infected tissue) and a sample sent for microbiological lab analysis, but Charles will not have to have his foot amputated. Many diabetic patients are not so lucky. In 2008, nearly 70,000 diabetic patients in the United States lost a foot or limb to amputation, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1

  • Which growth conditions would you recommend for the detection of C. perfringens?
A swollen foot with peeling skin and black regions under the skin.
Figure 9.22 This clinical photo depicts ulcers on the foot of a diabetic patient. Dead tissue accumulating in ulcers can provide an ideal growth environment for the anaerobe C. perfringens, a causative agent of gas gangrene. (credit: Shigeo Kono, Reiko Nakagawachi, Jun Arata, Benjamin A Lipsky)

Detoxification of Reactive Oxygen Species

Aerobic respiration constantly generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), byproducts that must be detoxified. Even organisms that do not use aerobic respiration need some way to break down some of the ROS that may form from atmospheric oxygen. Three main enzymes break down those toxic byproducts: superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, and catalase. Each one catalyzes a different reaction. Reactions of type seen in Reaction 1 are catalyzed by peroxidases.

(1)X(2H+)+H2O2oxidized-X+2H2O(1)X(2H+)+H2O2oxidized-X+2H2O

In these reactions, an electron donor (reduced compound; e.g., reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide [NADH]) oxidizes hydrogen peroxide, or other peroxides, to water. The enzymes play an important role by limiting the damage caused by peroxidation of membrane lipids. Reaction 2 is mediated by the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and breaks down the powerful superoxide anions generated by aerobic metabolism:

(2)2O2+2H+H2O2+O2(2)2O2+2H+H2O2+O2

The enzyme catalase converts hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen as shown in Reaction 3.

(3)2H2O22H2O+O2(3)2H2O22H2O+O2

Obligate anaerobes usually lack all three enzymes. Aerotolerant anaerobes do have SOD but no catalase. Reaction 3, shown occurring in Figure 9.23, is the basis of a useful and rapid test to distinguish streptococci, which are aerotolerant and do not possess catalase, from staphylococci, which are facultative anaerobes. A sample of culture rapidly mixed in a drop of 3% hydrogen peroxide will release bubbles if the culture is catalase positive.

A slide with two drops of clear liquid. The left drop is not bubbling and is labeled catalase negative. The right drop is bubbling and is labeled catalase positive.
Figure 9.23 The catalase test detects the presence of the enzyme catalase by noting whether bubbles are released when hydrogen peroxide is added to a culture sample. Compare the positive result (right) with the negative result (left). (credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Bacteria that grow best in a higher concentration of CO2 and a lower concentration of oxygen than present in the atmosphere are called capnophiles. One common approach to grow capnophiles is to use a candle jar. A candle jar consists of a jar with a tight-fitting lid that can accommodate the cultures and a candle. After the cultures are added to the jar, the candle is lit and the lid closed. As the candle burns, it consumes most of the oxygen present and releases CO2.

Check Your Understanding

  • What substance is added to a sample to detect catalase?
  • What is the function of the candle in a candle jar?

Clinical Focus

Part 2

The health-care provider who saw Jeni was concerned primarily because of her pregnancy. Her condition enhances the risk for infections and makes her more vulnerable to those infections. The immune system is downregulated during pregnancy, and pathogens that cross the placenta can be very dangerous for the fetus. A note on the provider’s order to the microbiology lab mentions a suspicion of infection by Listeria monocytogenes, based on the signs and symptoms exhibited by the patient.

Jeni’s blood samples are streaked directly on sheep blood agar, a medium containing tryptic soy agar enriched with 5% sheep blood. (Blood is considered sterile; therefore, competing microorganisms are not expected in the medium.) The inoculated plates are incubated at 37 °C for 24 to 48 hours. Small grayish colonies surrounded by a clear zone emerge. Such colonies are typical of Listeria and other pathogens such as streptococci; the clear zone surrounding the colonies indicates complete lysis of blood in the medium, referred to as beta-hemolysis (Figure 9.24). When tested for the presence of catalase, the colonies give a positive response, eliminating Streptococcus as a possible cause. Furthermore, a Gram stain shows short gram-positive bacilli. Cells from a broth culture grown at room temperature displayed the tumbling motility characteristic of Listeria (Figure 9.24). All of these clues lead the lab to positively confirm the presence of Listeria in Jeni’s blood samples.

  • How serious is Jeni’s condition and what is the appropriate treatment?
a) Two blood agar plates which have a red color. The left plate is labeled alpha hemolysis and shows slight clearings around the colonies. The right plate is labeled beta hemolysis and shows complete clearings around the colonies. B) Two tubes. The left tube is positive and shows cloudiness spreading out from the central line down the middle of the tube. The right tube is negative and shows no cloudiness spreading out from this central line.
Figure 9.24 (a) A sample blood agar test showing beta-hemolysis. (b) A sample motility test showing both positive and negative results. (credit a: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; credit b: modification of work by “VeeDunn”/Flickr)

Jump to the next Clinical Focus box. Go back to the previous Clinical Focus box.

Footnotes

  • 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Living With Diabetes: Keep Your Feet Healthy.” http://www.cdc.gov/Features/DiabetesFootHealth/
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