Löwenstein–Jensen medium

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Löwenstein–Jensen medium
Löwenstein-Jensen agar
Slant tubes of Löwenstein-Jensen medium. From left to right:
- Negative control
- M. tuberculosis: Dry-appearing colonies
- Mycobacterium avium complex: Wet-appearing colonies
- M. gordonae: Yellowish colonies
AcronymLJ medium
Related itemsPetri dish
Growth medium

Löwenstein–Jensen medium, more commonly known as LJ medium, is a growth medium[1] specially used for culture of Mycobacterium species, notably Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

When grown on LJ medium, M. tuberculosis appears as brown, granular colonies (sometimes called "buff, rough and tough"). The medium must be incubated for a significant length of time, usually four weeks, due to the slow doubling time of M. tuberculosis (15–20 hours) compared with other bacteria.

The medium is named after the Austrian pathologist Ernst Löwenstein (1878–1950) and the Danish medical doctor Kai Adolf Jensen (16.7.1894-2.5.1971).[2]


The usual composition[3] as applicable to M. tuberculosis is:

The original formulation included starch, which was later found to be unnecessary, so omitted.

Low levels of penicillin and nalidixic acid are also present in LJ medium to inhibit growth of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, to limit growth to Mycobacterium species only. Presence of malachite green in the medium inhibits most other bacteria. It is disinfected and solidified by a process of inspissation. Presence of glycerol enhances the growth of M. tuberculosis.

If the slopes are made on test tubes, they must be stored in cold and used within a month.

For cultivation of M. bovis, glycerol is omitted and sodium pyruvate is added.

The medium appears green, opaque, and opalescent.


Distinctive clusters of colorless Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • For diagnosis of mycobacterial infections
  • For testing antibiotic susceptibility of isolates
  • For differentiating different species of Mycobacterium (by colony morphology, growth rate, biochemical characteristics, and microscopy)
Mycobacterium tuberculosis Mycobacterium bovis
Eugonic, rough tough and buff Dysgonic
Aerobic Microaerophillic
Glycerol enhancement + Glycerol enhancement -
Pyruvate enhancement + Pyruvate enhancement -
Niacin production + Niacin production -


Alternative culture media[edit]

While LJ medium is the most popular means of culturing mycobacteria, as recommended by the International Union against Tuberculosis, several alternative media have been investigated.[4]

Solid media[edit]

Liquid media[edit]

Rapid detection techniques[edit]

The chief limitation of culture-based techniques is the time it takes to culture positivity, which can be several months. Several new molecular technologies have emerged in recent years to secure more speedy confirmation of diagnosis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elbir H, Abdel-Muhsin AM, Babiker A (February 2008). "A one-step DNA PCR-based method for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex grown on Löwenstein–Jensen media". Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 78 (2): 316–7. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2008.78.316. PMID 18256436.
  2. ^ Smith, Kenneth (March 22, 2021). "How TB Diagnostics Have Evolved Since the Second Century". American Society for Microbiology. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Textbook of Microbiology by Ananthanarayan and Panicker, Sixth Edition
  5. ^ Martin, R. S.; Sumarah, R. K.; Robart, E. M. (November 1975). "Comparison of Four Culture Media for the Isolation of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis: a 2-Year Study" (PDF). Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 2 (5): 438–440. doi:10.1128/jcm.2.5.438-440.1975. PMC 274204. PMID 811686.