Satellitism Test – Principle, Procedure, Result, Applications

What is Satellitism Test?

  • The genus Haemophilus comprises a group of bacteria that necessitate specific growth factors for their proliferation and sustenance. These growth factors are identified as the X-factor (hemin or protoporphyrin IX) and the V-factor (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD). The presence or absence of these factors allows for the differentiation of various Haemophilus species.
  • The Satellitism test is a biochemical assay designed to discern Haemophilus influenzae from other species within the Haemophilus genus. This differentiation is based on the distinct requirements of the X and V factors. Specifically, H. influenzae mandates the presence of both X and V factors for its growth, while other prevalent pathogenic Haemophilus species might only necessitate one of these factors.
  • A noteworthy observation is that the majority of Haemophilus strains are unable to proliferate on 5% sheep blood agar. This medium is replete with hemin (representing the X-factor) but is devoid of NAD (the V-factor). The significance of these factors lies in their roles within the bacterial metabolic processes. H. influenzae utilizes the X-factor in the synthesis of vital respiratory enzymes, including cytochromes, catalases, and peroxidases. Concurrently, the V-factor functions as an electron transporter within the bacterial oxidation-reduction system.
  • An intriguing interaction is observed when Staphylococcus aureus is cultured in a medium containing blood. This bacterium metabolically produces NAD and, during its growth, releases hemin by lysing red blood cells (RBCs). This release facilitates the growth of Haemophilus species proximal to Staphylococcus aureus colonies, a phenomenon termed “satellitism.”
  • To elucidate further, while many Haemophilus species require both X and V factors, the availability of these factors in the medium is crucial. V factors, once released from erythrocytes, become accessible for bacterial utilization. In contrast, hemin remains sequestered within intact RBCs, rendering it inaccessible until the RBCs undergo lysis. This is the primary reason H. influenzae cannot proliferate on standard blood agar.
  • The Satellitism test, therefore, serves as a pivotal tool in the identification of H. influenzae. The positive result of this test is indicative of the presence of H. influenzae, an organism that, due to its fastidious nature, requires supplementary components like hemin and NAD for growth. The roles of the X and V factors in the metabolic pathways of this bacterium underscore the importance of this test in microbiological diagnostics.

Definition of Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test is a biochemical assay used to differentiate Haemophilus influenzae from other Haemophilus species based on their growth factor requirements. In this test, H. influenzae grows proximally to Staphylococcus aureus colonies on blood agar due to the latter’s production of necessary growth factors, a phenomenon termed “satellitism.”

Objectives of Satellitism Test

The primary objective of the Satellitism Test is to facilitate the accurate identification of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae. This test is rooted in the unique growth factor requirements of H. influenzae, distinguishing it from other species within the Haemophilus genus. By employing this assay, researchers and clinicians can ascertain the presence of H. influenzae in a given sample, thereby enabling precise diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. The test’s specificity and reliability underscore its significance in microbiological diagnostics.

Principle of Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test operates on the foundational understanding of the growth factor requirements of Haemophilus influenzae and its interaction with other bacterial species in a specific medium. Blood agar, the medium used in this test, inherently supplies the X-factor. However, for the V-factor (NAD) to be accessible, the erythrocytes within the blood agar must undergo hemolysis. H. influenzae, by its nature, lacks the capability to induce hemolysis of erythrocytes and, consequently, cannot proliferate in the blood agar medium in the absence of the V-factor.

Enter Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium with hemolytic properties. When introduced into the blood agar medium, S. aureus facilitates the release of the V-factor by lysing the erythrocytes. This action renders the V-factor available in the medium. As a result, H. influenzae can now thrive, but only in close proximity to the colonies of S. aureus, where the V-factor concentration is optimal. This spatial growth pattern, with H. influenzae colonies forming satellite-like arrangements around S. aureus colonies, gives rise to the term “satelliting,” which is the central observation of the Satellitism Test.

Requirements for Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test, instrumental in identifying Haemophilus influenzae through its distinctive growth pattern in proximity to Staphylococcus aureus colonies, necessitates a meticulous preparation of culture media and a strategic arrangement of equipment and organisms.

  1. Culture Media: Blood Agar Medium
    • Composition of Blood Agar Base (per 1000 mL)
      • Beef Heart Peptone: 10.0 grams (or Meat Extracts: 10.0 grams as an alternative)
      • Peptone: 10.0 grams (or Tryptose: 10.0 grams as an alternative)
      • Sodium Chloride: 5.0 grams
      • Agar: 15.0 grams
      • Final pH: 7.3 ±0.2 at 25°C
    • Preparation of Blood Agar Plate
      • Accurately measure 40 grams of Blood Agar Base powder, integrating it into the requisite volume of water within a conical flask or glass bottle, adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions.
      • Ensure thorough stirring, utilizing a magnetic stirrer or manual methods, and bring the mixture to a boil to facilitate the dissolution of all components and agar.
      • Subject the flask or bottle to autoclaving at 121°C and 15 lbs pressure for a duration of 15 minutes, subsequently allowing it to cool to approximately 40 – 45°C.
      • Gradually introduce 5% (5 to 10%) v/v sterile defibrinated Sheep Blood into the flask containing the blood agar base, maintaining consistent stirring to ensure uniform dissolution of the blood in the medium.
      • Dispense approximately 25 mL of the resultant blood agar into a sterile Petri plate (with a diameter of 10 cm), allowing it to solidify adequately at room temperature.
  2. ReagentsThe Satellitism Test does not necessitate the utilization of additional reagents.
  3. Equipment
  4. Test Organisms
    • Sample Bacteria: Haemophilus spp.
    • Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 25923
  5. Control Organisms
    • Haemophilus influenzae ATCC 35056
    • Haemophilus haemolyticus ATCC 33390

The meticulous preparation and arrangement of the aforementioned components are pivotal to the successful execution and accuracy of the Satellitism Test, ensuring that the resultant data is both reliable and reproducible within a scientific context.

Procedure of Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test is a methodical procedure designed to identify Haemophilus influenzae based on its unique growth pattern in proximity to Staphylococcus aureus colonies. The following is a comprehensive and standardized procedure for conducting the Satellitism Test:

  1. Preparation of Bacterial Suspensions:
    • Using a sterile inoculating loop, collect identified or suspected Haemophilus spp. colonies and suspend them in approximately 2 ml of sterile physiological saline or sterile peptone water. Ensure that no remnants of the chocolate agar medium are transferred.
    • Similarly, prepare a suspension of S. aureus in sterile saline or peptone water.
  2. Inoculation:
    • With a sterile swab, uniformly inoculate the Haemophilus spp. suspension onto two separate plates: a nutrient agar (or tryptic soy agar) plate and a blood agar plate.
    • Using a fresh sterile inoculating loop, streak the S. aureus suspension across both inoculated plates, ensuring the streaks intersect the lines of the Haemophilus spp. inoculation perpendicularly.
  3. Incubation:
    • Place both inoculated plates in an incubator set at 35 to 37°C. The environment within the incubator should be enriched with 5% CO2.
    • Allow the plates to incubate for a duration of 18-24 hours.
  4. Examination:
    • After the incubation period, carefully remove the plates from the incubator.
    • Examine the plates for bacterial growth, paying particular attention to the presence of satellite colonies around the S. aureus streaks. The appearance of these satellite colonies is indicative of Haemophilus influenzae.

Safety Precautions:

  • Always wear gloves and other appropriate personal protective equipment when handling bacterial cultures.
  • Ensure that all instruments, including inoculating loops and swabs, are sterile before use.
  • Dispose of used culture plates and bacterial suspensions following biosafety guidelines.

This procedure, rooted in the principles of microbiological diagnostics, ensures the accurate identification of Haemophilus influenzae, leveraging its distinctive growth requirements in the presence of Staphylococcus aureus.

Result and Interpretation of Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test is a diagnostic tool that leverages the unique growth requirements of Haemophilus influenzae in the presence of Staphylococcus aureus. The results and their interpretations are as follows:

  1. Positive Result for Haemophilus influenzae:
    • Manifestation of small colonies exclusively in proximity to the S. aureus colonies is indicative of H. influenzae.
    • On the blood agar plate, there is observable growth, but this is absent on the nutrient agar plate. Moreover, colonies adjacent to the S. aureus growth column are more pronounced than those distant from it.
  2. Other Haemophilus Species:
    • Haemophilus haemolyticus and H. parahaemolyticus, being hemolytic, can proliferate independently of S. aureus.
    • If satellite colonies are discernible on both the blood and nutrient agar plates, the organism is likely a Haemophilus species that solely necessitates factor V (NAD), such as H. parainfluenzae. The colonies of S. aureus provide the requisite V factors.
  3. Negative Result:
    • Bacterial growth across the entirety of the plate, both adjacent to and distant from S. aureus colonies, suggests the presence of Haemophilus spp. that either exclusively require the X-factor or possess hemolytic capabilities.
  4. Other Observations:
    • Some organisms, including Francisella tularensis, certain Methylobacterium species, and Haemophilus ducreyi, exclusively proliferate on chocolate agar and remain non-viable on blood agar, even in the presence of a Staphylococcus dot.
    • Haemophilus haemolyticus and H. parahaemolyticus might not exhibit the satellite phenomenon due to their inherent hemolytic nature.
    • On rare occasions, strains of Neisseria, Streptococcus species, and diphtheroids may also demonstrate satellitism.
Satellitism Test
Satellitism Test
Satellitism Test
Satellitism Test

Noteworthy Fact: Haemophilus influenzae holds the distinction of being the inaugural free-living organism to have its entire genome sequenced.

In conclusion, the Satellitism Test offers a reliable method for the presumptive identification of Haemophilus influenzae. However, it’s crucial to consider the entire spectrum of results and potential confounders to ensure accurate interpretation and subsequent clinical or research decisions.


In the realm of microbiological diagnostics, the precision and reliability of results are contingent upon the meticulous adherence to protocol and the observance of specific precautions. When conducting the Satellitism Test, the following precautions are paramount:

  1. Sterility of the Blood Agar Plate: Prior to inoculation, it is imperative to ensure that the blood agar plate is not only sterile but also devoid of any signs of hemolysis. Hemolysis can compromise the integrity of the medium and potentially skew the results.
  2. Transfer of Haemophilus Colonies: When procuring Haemophilus colonies to prepare the bacterial suspension, one must exercise caution to prevent the inadvertent transfer of the chocolate agar medium. The presence of this medium in the suspension can introduce variables that might affect the outcome of the test.
  3. Incubation Environment: The test mandates a specific atmospheric condition for optimal bacterial growth. As such, it is crucial to incubate the inoculated plates in an environment enriched with 5% CO2. This concentration facilitates the growth of Haemophilus influenzae and ensures the accuracy of the test results.

In summation, the Satellitism Test, like all microbiological assays, requires a rigorous adherence to protocol and the observance of specific precautions. These measures not only ensure the accuracy and reliability of the results but also uphold the standards of scientific rigor and integrity.

Applications of Satellitism Test

The Satellitism Test, rooted in microbiological diagnostics, serves as a pivotal tool in bacterial identification and differentiation. Its applications are multifaceted and encompass the following:

  1. Identification of Haemophilus influenzae: One of the primary applications of the Satellitism Test is the identification of isolated Haemophilus species, specifically pinpointing Haemophilus influenzae. Given the unique growth requirements of H. influenzae in proximity to Staphylococcus aureus colonies, the test provides a reliable method to ascertain the presence of this bacterium in a given sample.
  2. Differentiation from Brucella spp.: The Satellitism Test also plays a crucial role in differentiating Haemophilus species from Brucella species. Both genera, while distinct, can present with similar morphological characteristics, making differentiation challenging. The Satellitism Test, with its specific growth patterns, offers a clear demarcation between the two, ensuring accurate identification and subsequent clinical or research interventions.

In essence, the Satellitism Test stands as a cornerstone in the realm of bacterial diagnostics, offering precise identification and differentiation capabilities, thereby facilitating informed scientific and medical decisions.

Limitations of Satellitism Test

While the Satellitism Test serves as a valuable tool in the realm of microbiological diagnostics, it is not without its limitations. These constraints underscore the importance of employing complementary diagnostic methods to ensure accurate results. The limitations include:

  1. Differentiation Challenges: The test is incapable of distinguishing between H. influenzae and H. aegyptius. Both species can exhibit similar growth patterns in the presence of Staphylococcus aureus, leading to potential misidentification.
  2. Growth Limitations: H. ducreyi, a distinct species within the Haemophilus genus, does not proliferate on blood agar, even when Staphylococcus aureus is present. This limitation can lead to false-negative results for this particular species.
  3. Preliminary Identification: Before conducting the Satellitism Test, the bacteria in question must first be identified as a member of the Haemophilus genus. This necessitates preliminary tests, such as Gram staining or other biochemical assays, adding an additional step to the diagnostic process.
  4. Cross-reactivity with Other Bacteria: Several other bacterial species, including nutritionally variant Streptococci (NVS) like Abiotrophia defectiva and Granulicatella species, as well as Neisseria spp. and diphtheroids, can also yield positive results in the Satellitism Test. This cross-reactivity can lead to potential misinterpretations and underscores the importance of using the Satellitism Test in conjunction with other diagnostic methods.

In conclusion, while the Satellitism Test offers valuable insights into the identification of certain bacterial species, it is essential to be cognizant of its limitations. Employing a holistic approach, incorporating multiple diagnostic methods, ensures comprehensive and accurate bacterial identification.



What is the Satellitism Test?

The Satellitism Test is a diagnostic method used to identify the presence of Haemophilus influenzae based on its unique growth requirements in proximity to Staphylococcus aureus colonies on a blood agar medium.

Why is Staphylococcus aureus used in the Satellitism Test?

Staphylococcus aureus releases the V-factor (NAD) as a metabolic by-product, which is essential for the growth of Haemophilus influenzae.

Can the Satellitism Test differentiate between all Haemophilus species?

No, the test has limitations. For instance, it cannot differentiate between H. influenzae and H. aegyptius.

What do satellite colonies indicate in the test?

The presence of satellite colonies around Staphylococcus aureus indicates the growth of Haemophilus influenzae.

Are there any organisms that can give a false positive in the Satellitism Test?

Yes, certain organisms like Neisseria spp., some Streptococcus species, and diphtheroids might also show a positive result in the Satellitism Test.

Why doesn’t H. ducreyi grow on blood agar in the Satellitism Test?

H. ducreyi does not grow on blood agar even in the presence of S. aureus, making it an exception among the Haemophilus species.

What are the X-factor and V-factor in the context of the Satellitism Test?

The X-factor refers to hemin or protoporphyrin IX, while the V-factor refers to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Both are essential growth factors for Haemophilus influenzae.

Can the Satellitism Test be used for organisms other than Haemophilus influenzae?

While primarily designed for H. influenzae, the test might also show positive results for other organisms, but it’s crucial to use additional tests for accurate identification.

How long does it take to obtain results from the Satellitism Test?

Typically, after inoculation, the plate is incubated at 35±2°C for about 24 hours in 5% CO2 before examining for results.

Is the Satellitism Test the only method to identify Haemophilus influenzae?

No, while the Satellitism Test is a valuable diagnostic tool, other tests and methods, including biochemical tests and Gram staining, can also be used to identify and differentiate Haemophilus species.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 Best Microbiology Books For B.Sc 1st Year Students What is a digital colony counter? Why do Laboratory incubators need CO2? What is Karyotyping? What are the scope of Microbiology? What is DNA Library? What is Simple Staining? What is Negative Staining? What is Western Blot? What are Transgenic Plants?
5 Best Microbiology Books For B.Sc 1st Year Students What is a digital colony counter? Why do Laboratory incubators need CO2? What is Karyotyping? What are the scope of Microbiology? What is DNA Library? What is Simple Staining? What is Negative Staining? What is Western Blot? What are Transgenic Plants?
Adblocker detected! Please consider reading this notice.

We've detected that you are using AdBlock Plus or some other adblocking software which is preventing the page from fully loading.

We don't have any banner, Flash, animation, obnoxious sound, or popup ad. We do not implement these annoying types of ads!

We need money to operate the site, and almost all of it comes from our online advertising.

Please add to your ad blocking whitelist or disable your adblocking software.