MacConkey agar No. 3 is a selective medium primarily for the isolation of Enterobacteriacae from waters and sewage. This media differs from the original MacConkey formulation in that as well as bile salts, crystal violet has been included as an additional selective agent. This has the effect of inhibiting Gram-positive organisms.
The peptone acts as a nitrogen, carbon and vitamin source. Sodium chloride maintains osmotic balance. Lactose is a carbohydrate and during its fermentation causes a confined pH drop around the bacterial colony. This causes a colour change in the pH indicator, neutral red and bile precipitation.