Triple sugar iron agar is used to differentiate between some of the enterobacteriacae on the basis of four reactions: fermentation of lactose, glucose and sucrose and the production of hydrogen sulphide.
Beef extract, yeast extract and peptone provide the required nitrogen, carbon and vitamins. Lactose, sucrose and glucose are carbohydrates. Acid production from their fermentation is detected by the phenol red pH indictor. Sodium thiosulphate is reduced to hydrogen sulphide which is detected by the ferric citrate indicator. Sodium chloride maintains osmotic balance.