Background: Burkholderia mallei is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes glanders, a zoonotic disease, especially in equine populations (e.g. horses, donkeys, and mules). B. mallei usually grows slowly on most culture media, and this property makes it difficult to isolate from clinical specimens. One of the problems is that B. mallei is easily overgrown by other bacteria, especially in animal specimens collected from non-sterile sites. The aim of this study was to develop a new selective agar for the laboratory diagnosis of glanders. We formulated a new agar, named BM agar, to enrich B. mallei growth, but inhibit the growth of other bacteria and fungi based on their antimicrobial profiles. We compared the growth of B. mallei on BM with Xie's and PC agars, the two previously described selective agars for B. mallei.
Results: BM agar could sufficiently grow almost all of the tested B. mallei strains within 72 h: only one out of the 38 strains grew scantly after 72 h of incubation. BM agar was further tested with other Burkholderia species and various bacterial species commonly found in the nasal cavities and on the skin of horses. We have found that other Burkholderia species including B. pseudomallei and B. thailandensis can grow on BM agar, but non-Burkholderia species cannot. Furthermore, the specificities of the three selective agars were tested with or without spiking B. mallei culture into clinical specimens of non-sterile sites collected from healthy horses. The results showed that BM agar inhibited growths of fungi and other bacterial species better than PC and Xie's agars. We have also found that growth of B. mallei on BM agar was equivalent to that on 5% horse blood agar and was significantly greater than those on the other two agars (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: We believe that BM agar can be used to efficiently isolate B. mallei from mixed samples such as those typically collected from horses and other contaminated environments.
Keywords: Bacterial isolation; Burkholderia mallei; Equine; Glanders; Horse; Selective medium.