Part of Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Scentific

Thermo Fisher Scientific Microbiology Division

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific is the world leader in serving science. Thermo Fisher Scientific enables customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer by providing analytical instruments, equipment, reagents and consumables, software and services for research, analysis, discovery and diagnostics. With annual sales of more than $10 billion, Thermo Fisher Scientific has 30,000 employees and serves more than 350,000 customers in pharmaceutical and biotech companies, hospitals and clinical diagnostic labs, universities, research institutions and government agencies as well as environmental, industrial quality and process control settings.

Oxoid, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, is a leading brand in microbiology. For over 70 years, it has been at the forefront of microbiological development, contributing to the introduction of new and innovative solutions to the world’s microbiological challenges. The Oxoid range of products is used in clinical and industrial laboratories to isolate and identify the bacteria or other organisms that cause disease or spoilage. Oxoid is associated with high quality products by microbiologists around the globe.

Thermo Fisher Microbiology Division

Thermo Fisher Microbiology Division has brought together two specialist microbiology businesses, Oxoid and Remel, which operates production facilities in Basingstoke, Dartford and Perth, UK; Wesel, Germany; Adelaide, Australia; Ontario, Canada; Beijing, China; Singapore and Lenexa (KS), Atlanta (GA), Lake Charles (LA) and Sunnyvale (CA), USA.

Worldwide, we employ approximately 1,800 people, and have a direct presence in 24 countries. Divisional headquarters are in Basingstoke, Hampshire. This is the main production and administrative site, supported by a network of wholly owned sales and distribution companies in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. Many other countries are supplied through specialist distributors. Oxoid and Remel brand products are used in clinical and industrial laboratories to isolate and identify the bacteria and other micro-organisms that cause disease or spoilage.

We are very proud of the many, high calibre microbiologists at Microbiology Division. The wealth of experience and expertise, together with our investment in new technologies and facilities, enables us to deliver an extensive range of high quality products.

Our products are manufactured to the highest industry standards (including BS EN ISO 9001 with extended scope to include BS EN 46001), meet the strictest requirements of the major pharmaceutical regulatory agencies (including FDA and EU) and comply with local pharmacopoeia standards (including EP, USP and JP).

Oxoid Products

Culture Media

These provide essential nutrients for micro-organisms (bugs) to grow. They can be non-selective (nutrient rich, allowing growth of many different organisms) or selective (containing inhibitory agents that will prevent the growth of most micro-organisms but will allow target organisms to grow).

A culture medium can be:

  • Solid - agar-based, gel media, allowing the bugs to grow on the surface, so that they can be visibly detected and counted. Agar media are usually prepared in Petri dishes or “plates”.
  • Liquid - broth media used to allow the bugs to recover and grow to high numbers

Many media also contain agents that cause diagnostic reactions that help in the analysis (e.g. some Listeria broths turn black if Listeria is present, or colonies of Staphylococcus aureus growing on media containing egg-yolk will develop clear “halos” around them).

Customers can buy culture media in 2 generic formats:

  • Dehydrated culture media (made in Basingstoke and Lenexa)
    blended powders which customers will re-hydrate, sterilise and then dispense and quality control test, themselves, before use
  • Prepared media (made in Adelaide, Lenexa, Ontario, Perth, Malaysia, and Wesel)
    media which has been rehydrated, sterilised, dispensed and quality control tested, and is ready-to-use
Brilliance UTI Agar; chromogens allow the different organisms that commonly cause UTI infections to be easily differentiated
Brilliance UTI Agar; chromogens allow the different organisms that commonly cause UTI infections to be easily differentiated

Recent innovations in the Oxoid range of culture media include;

  • The Brilliance™ range - culture media which utilise colour for highly specific microbial identification, allowing easy differentiation between organisms, making it simpler to read results and reducing the need for further confirmatory testing. Media in the range are for important organisms such as:
    • MRSA (the hospital “super bug”)
    • Listeria
    • Salmonella
    • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
    • Bacillus cereus
    • Campylobacter
    • Candida
    • Cronobacter
    • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
  • Vegetable Peptone Broth - USP compliant, meat-free culture media products that are free from BSE and other TSEs and also from genetically modified material (GMOs).

Laboratory Preparations, Peptones & Hydrolysates

Nutritious amino acid (protein) powders, commonly produced from extracts of meat, are used to grow bugs to high numbers. Used for vaccine manufacture and fermentation, peptones are also a primary constituent of culture media.

Oxoid has recently introduced equivalent products made from vegetable sources (Veggietones). These have attracted a lot of interest from pharmaceutical companies who wish to eliminate animal components from their products following the BSE publicity. These products are also available in dehydrated or prepared formats.

Freeze Dried Supplements

These are freeze dried cocktails of inhibitory compounds, intended to prevent growth of many different types of micro-organisms while allowing target bugs to grow, and used to make certain culture media selective. They often contain substances that cannot be added to the culture media powder for some reason. For example, they may be heat labile, so will not withstand the heat sterilization process. Freeze Dried Supplements are aseptically rehydrated and added to media after sterilization.

Supplementary Reagents and Blood Products

Products made from blood and egg yolk are used to make culture media more nutritious. They can also make the culture media more “diagnostic”, as some bugs can break them down, producing clear zones around the growth.

Microbial Identification Products

These products differentiate bacteria using the principle that different bugs can produce reactions with different chemicals. Using a coloured indicator, these biochemical reactions can be used to identify different species of micro-organisms.

RapID  strip: different coloured reaction pattern produced allow bugs to be identified
RapID strip: different coloured reaction pattern produced allow bugs to be identified
  • Identification panels - two product ranges of ID panels exist in the range, based on the same similar principle:
  • Microbact™
  • RapID™

A series of wells in a strip, each containing specific chemicals and a colour indicator. If the bacterium can produce the reaction, the colour in the well changes. The colour pattern that is produced in the strip by a bug can then be used to identify it.

  • O.B.I.S test card
    O.B.I.S test card
    Oxoid Biochemical Identification System (O.B.I.S) - O.B.I.S. tests comprise of reaction cards with various chemicals pre-dispensed and dried onto the reaction area. An organism is tested for its ability to react with the chemicals. A reaction results in a strong colour change in the reaction area. These reactions can be used to help identify the particular bug.
  • Diagnostic Reagents (DRs)
    These are agglutination tests; suspensions of microscopic latex particles toDiagnostic Regent reactions
    Diagnostic Regent reactions
    Test 1: negative, with no clumping
    Test 2, positive, the granular appearance of the clumps is clearly visible
    which antibodies have been attached. The antibodies are specific for particular bugs and in their presence, will attach to specific particles (antigens) on the surface of the bugs. As they attach to the surface of the bugs, they agglutinate (form a “lattice” of latex and bugs which causes small clumps to form). The clumps are visible so a positive reaction can be easily seen.

    Diagnostic Reagents are available in two formats – a wet latex suspension and a dry format, where the latex has been dispensed onto the reaction cards and dried. There are several brands within the DR range:
    • DrySpot™
    • PathoDx™
    • Staphaurex™
    • Staphylase™
    • Staphytect Plus™
    • Streptex™
    • Wellcogen™

Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Products

AST discs showing resistance patterns to 6 antibiotics
AST discs showing resistance patterns to 6 antibiotics
These products are used to determine whether or not a bug is susceptible or resistant to a particular antibiotic. This information is very important in determining the best treatment for someone with an infection.

  • Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (AST) discs - small paper discs impregnated with an antibiotic. These discs are placed on the surface of an agar plate which has already been inoculated with the bug being tested. The antibiotic diffuses from the paper disc into the agar. The further from the disc, the more dilute the antibiotic will be. How close the bug grows to the disc indicates how susceptible the bug is and consequently, how effective the antibiotic will be at treating an infection with that bug. More than 1 antibiotic can be tested on one plate.
  • Minimum Inhibitor Concentration (MIC) Evaluators™ (M.I.C.E™) StripsM.I.C.E. strips give the minimum inhibitor concentration of an antibiotic
    M.I.C.E. strips give the minimum inhibitor concentration of an antibiotic
    these strips work on a similar principle to the discs, except they provide a more precise result. They do this by having an increasing amount of antibiotic along the length of the strip. At the low concentration end of the strip, the bug will grow close to the strip. As the concentration increases, at some point, a concentration is reached where the bug can no longer tolerate the antibiotic, and a zone begins to appear between the growth and the strip. This point on the strip indicates the minimum concentration of the antibiotic which inhibits growth.


Immunoassays are used in the clinical setting. They use specific antibodies to detect the presence of a pathogen in a specimen, by binding to specific structures on the micro-organisms surface (antigens). If the sample added to the immunoassay microtray contains the target bugs, they bind to the antibody. This can be used to detect their presence.

Antibodies specific for the target bugs are bound to wells in the test tray, called a microtray. Each specimen being tested is added to a separate well in the microtray. Target bugs are “captured” by the fixed antibody. The wells are washed, removing the sample but leaving the captured bugs behind. More antibody is added in the form of a solution. This antibody is bound to a molecule which develops a colour when a developing reagent is added. This also binds to any target bugs that have been captured. The wells are washed again, and the developer reagent is added. A colour develops only in the wells in which samples containing the target organisms were added.

Antibody-Antigen-Antibody sandwich

ProSpecT microtray
ProSpecT microtray
Immunoassays fall into 2 main categories:

  • Enzyme immunoassays: these kits can be read by eye. Product ranges include:
    • ProSpecT™
    • IDEIA™
  • Immunofluorescent assays: these kits have to be read by equipment that can measure fluorescence, and include products ranges that include examples of such kits are:
    • IMAGEN™
    • PathoDx™

Culti-Loops and Quanti-Cult

These are stabilized preparations of micro-organisms which customers use to quality control their media and conduct experiments. The strains are all from a known source, and so the bugs can be expected to behave in a standardised manner.

  • Culti-Loops™ - qualitative (undefined, high number) for general purpose testing
  • Quanti-Cult™ - quantitative (known number) used for performance testing (e.g. you know how many are in the kit, so you know how many you can expect to recover).

Atmosphere Generation Systems

Some bacteria (anaerobes) are killed by oxygen, while others (micro-aerophiles) prefer increased levels of carbon dioxide. There are 2 products ranges under the Oxoid brand designed to provide suitable environments for these bugs to grow. Both use chemical reactions to remove oxygen from the air and produce carbon dioxide, but they work on very different principles

  • Gas Kits - these traditional systems require the addition of water and the presence of a catalyst for the reactions to occur. Without the catalyst hydrogen (an explosive gas) is formed. As a result these systems are considered to be comparatively dangerous.
  • AGS (AnaeroGen, CampyGen, CO2Gen) - products in this range react immediately on exposure to the atmosphere and produce no hydrogen. They are easier to use and safer than traditional systems.
A positive result, using SIGNAL
A positive result, using SIGNAL

SIGNAL Blood Culture System

Bacteraemia is a condition caused by bacteria getting into the blood. Septicaemia is a much more serious illness, which results when toxins are produced by the infecting bacteria, and can lead to septic shock. Both of these conditions cause symptoms which can also be caused by other conditions. To find out whether a blood infection is involved, a blood culture test is performed.

Most blood culture systems use 2 bottles per test; one to test for aerobes (which can grow in oxygen) and one to test for anaerobes (which are killed by oxygen). The SIGNAL™ system is unusual as it has just one bottle, which has been developed to grow both aerobes and anaerobes. The system is manual (no sophisticated equipment) and relies on the bugs growing and producing gases. At the start of the test, a device is attached to the bottle with a long needle. The build-up in gas causes pressure to build in the head space of the bottle which forces the broth to rise up the needle into a transparent chamber. If the user sees broth in the chamber, then they know that bugs were present in the sample.

Due to the rise in automated systems, sales of Signal declined, but in recent years have levelled out and are now fairly steady.

Toxin Detection Kits

Sometimes illnesses are not caused by micro-organisms, themselves, but by toxins they produce. Many of these cause disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract, ranging from the mild food poisoning, such as that caused by a Bacillus cereus toxin, to pseudomembranous colitis, caused by the Clostridium difficile toxins and which can sometimes only be treated by removal of part of the bowel. In the case of toxins which cause food poisoning, the tests can be used to confirm the presence or absence of toxin in food as well as diagnose the cause of toxin-induced poisoning.

DuPont Qualicon (only sold in some countries)

The DuPont Qualicon range uses molecular microbiology to detect and identify bacteria.

BAX® System Q7 – uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to multiply specific parts of the amount of bacterial DNA to levels high enough that it can be detected by an instrument. The instrument (cycler) heats and cools the sample many times in the presence of an excess of “primers” which generate copies of the part of the DNA that is specific to the bacteria under test. This is used by the food industry to test products for the presence of pathogens (e.g. Salmonella or Listeria). It is very sensitive; one cell of the pathogen is all that is needed to be present to produce a positive result. It is also very specific, detecting the presence of DNA sequences specific to the target micro-organism, alone.

Riboprinter – Special chemicals (enzymes) are used to cut up the bacterial DNA where specific sequences occur. The resulting mixture of fragments can be sorted according to size using the Riboprinter system. The fragments are run along a gel and, the distance they travel is determined by their size, because shorter fragments will pass along a gel column faster than larger ones. At the end of the test period, the location of the fragments in the gel produces a pattern that is very specific to a particular bug so can be used to identify it.

About Our Customers

Our products are used by microbiologists all over the world to grow, detect and identify micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) or bugs, for short. Our products are used by microbiologists in hospital laboratories to help diagnose infectious disease and to determine the most effective course of treatment. They are also used in food laboratories to ensure that food is safe to eat or to determine its shelf life. Pharmaceutical laboratories will use Oxoid products to aid the development of new drugs, in the manufacture of vaccines and to ensure that their products are sterile and safe to use. Other groups of customers include the water industry, those involved in environmental monitoring, breweries, veterinary clinics and medical device manufacturers (e.g. syringes or hip replacements).

Oxoid products are used by:

  • Clinical/hospital laboratories - to diagnose infectious disease in various samples (wound swabs, throat swabs, urine samples, etc.)
  • Food and beverage company laboratories - to make sure that their products are free of pathogens (meet legal standards) and do not contain high numbers of other bacteria that may cause spoilage.
  • Pharmaceutical and cosmetic company laboratories - to ensure that their manufacturing suites and equipment are sterile and to investigate causes of contamination. Pharmaceutical companies will also use Quanti-Cult to ensure that the preservatives that they use in their products are effective (challenge testing). Pharma companies will also use peptones to manufacture vaccines.
  • Water companies - to ensure that the water supply is free of pathogens. Given the volumes of water involved and the effectiveness of water treatment methods, often the focus in water companies is testing the treatment plant to ensure that it is working.

Historical Background: Oxoid Brand

Oxoid has contributed significantly to the development and manufacture of a wide range of novel, innovative microbiology products. As a world-leading brand in microbiological diagnostics, including culture media and a broad selection of complementary products, the Oxoid range is available in virtually every country around the world via an extensive supply network.

The origins of Oxoid go back into the 19th Century when the science of bacteriology was also beginning. The original parent company, the Liebig Extract of Meat Company (Lemco) manufactured meat extracts which, conveniently, could be used in laboratories to grow bacteria. Liebig produced a popular - and cheaper - version of his meat extract around the turn of the century and named it Oxo, with the familiar Oxo cube following a few years later.

The Oxoid (Oxo Industrial Division) name was first used in 1924 on glandular extracts and other products sold to hospitals and laboratories, although not officially registered as a brand until 1959. During the 1950s, modern pharmaceuticals had replaced these earlier glandular extracts in the treatment of patients, and the Oxoid brand became synonymous with dehydrated culture media. By 1965, this had grown to the point where, rather than being just the industrial division of Oxo, Oxoid Limited was set up as a separate company in the Liebig group.

During 1968, Liebig merged with Brooke Bond and, in 1975, Oxoid left the Oxo factory in Southwark, London, where the company had been founded, and moved to new, purpose-built facilities in Basingstoke. Also, at this time, a number of new Oxoid companies were set up in Europe, Canada and Australia.

In 1984, the Brooke Bond group was acquired by Unilever, and Oxoid became part of its Medical Products group, later merging with Unipath, a diagnostics company then producing pregnancy tests and other similar products for the consumer market. Both parts of the new company continued to grow, adding more new companies and developing immunological products for the microbiology market.

By 1996, Unilever had decided to concentrate on consumer products, resulting in the separation of the Unipath and Oxoid businesses. Oxoid, following a management buy-out, became an independent company at the beginning of 1997. Subsequently, Oxoid was bought by Fisher Scientific International Inc. in March 2004. In November 2006, Fisher Scientific merged with Thermo Electron Corporation and Thermo Fisher Scientific was born.
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