The use of paraffin wax metabolism in the speciation of Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare

Tubercle. 1990 Mar;71(1):23-8. doi: 10.1016/0041-3879(90)90056-e.


Paraffin-wax utilisation or baiting of Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare (MAI) complex organisms and other 'atypical mycobacteria' and the inability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to utilise paraffin are known and useful if forgotten facts. Strains of possible AIDS-related MAI have been introduced into Czapek broth devoid of any carbon source other than paraffin-wax coated slides. Replicate slides showing 'in situ' growth were subjected to the following battery of tests: acid alcohol fast staining and microscopic examination of 'in situ' growth, tellurite reduction in 3 days, absence of urea hydrolysis, inability to reduce nitrates and inability to hydrolyse Tween 80. The system has been utilised to isolate and identify MAI organisms in blood from AIDS patients. The simplicity, low cost, and reduced risk of contamination make the system especially suitable for small rural laboratories and field stations as well as laboratories in developing countries.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / microbiology
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / classification*
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / cytology
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / metabolism
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Paraffin / metabolism*
  • Polysorbates / metabolism
  • Tellurium / metabolism
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Culture Media
  • Nitrates
  • Polysorbates
  • potassium tellurate(IV)
  • Paraffin
  • Urea
  • Tellurium