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Updated: May 9 2019


  • Overview
    • Gram stain
      • Gram-positive bacteria have a thick peptidoglycan layer in their cell walls that holds the crystal violet stain
      • Gram-negative bacteria cannot hold the crystal violet stain and are counterstained by safranin
    • Giemsa stain
      • Borrelia
      • Plasmodium
      • trypanosomes
      • Chlamydia
    • Periodic acid-Schiff stain (PAS)
      • glycogen
      • mucopolysaccharides
      • used to diagnose Whipple's disease (Tropheryma whippelii)
    • Carbolfuscin
      • acid-fast stain
    • Ziehl-Neelsen
      • acid-fast organisms
        • Mycobacterium
        • Nocardia (partially acid fast)
        • Cryptosporidum oocysts
    • India ink
      • Cryptococcus neoformans
        • stain is not taken up by polysaccharide capsule, creating a transparent halo
        • mucicarmine can also be used to stain capsule red
    • Silver stain
      • fungi
        • e.g. Pneumocystis, Legionella
  • Bugs that Gram stain poorly
    • Treponema
      • to thin to be visualized
      • use darkfield microscopy or fluorescent antibodies
    • Rickettsia
    • Mycobacteria
      • high-lipid-content cell wall
      • use acid-fast stain
    • Legionella pneumophila
      • intracellular parasite
      • use silver stain
    • Mycoplasma
      • no cell wall
    • Ureaplasma #9172
      • no cell wall
    • Chlamydia
      • intracellular parasite
      • has a cell wall but the cell wall does not contain peptidoglycan
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