With just a few essential diagnostic materials, a laboratory can make an important contribution to individual patient care through accurate etiological diagnosis. The lack of such facilities to support diagnosis is discouraging to health workers, who are then unlikely to derive optimum job satisfaction.
In most developing countries, bacteriological laboratory practice is hampered by a shortage of culture media and basic reagents, which are very costly to import. However, the number of media and reagents that have to be purchased can be reduced to the essential ones, through rational selection, as has been the case with essential drug lists. Additionally, some simple media and reagents can be produced or prepared locally. Application of these two approaches would greatly reduce the necessity for foreign exchange and make more readily available the laboratory material necessary for patient care and epidemiological studies.
This chapter has been prepared in an effort to enable health laboratory managers to concentrate their resources on the most relevant culture media and associated reagents. It comprises two sections both composed of a series of lists.