<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Learning objectives

  • Differentiate between simple and differential stains
  • Describe the unique features of commonly used stains
  • Explain the procedures and name clinical applications for Gram, endospore, acid-fast, negative capsule, and flagella staining

In their natural state, most of the cells and microorganisms that we observe under the microscope lack color and contrast. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to detect important cellular structures and their distinguishing characteristics without artificially treating specimens. We have already alluded to certain techniques involving stains and fluorescent dyes, and in this section we will discuss specific techniques for sample preparation in greater detail. Indeed, numerous methods have been developed to identify specific microbes, cellular structures, DNA sequences, or indicators of infection in tissue samples, under the microscope. Here, we will focus on the most clinically relevant techniques.

Preparing specimens for light microscopy

In clinical settings, light microscopes are the most commonly used microscopes. There are two basic types of preparation used to view specimens with a light microscope: wet mounts and fixed specimens.

The simplest type of preparation is the wet mount , in which the specimen is placed on the slide in a drop of liquid. Some specimens, such as a drop of urine, are already in a liquid form and can be deposited on the slide using a dropper. Solid specimens, such as a skin scraping, can be placed on the slide before adding a drop of liquid to prepare the wet mount. Sometimes the liquid used is simply water, but often stains are added to enhance contrast. Once the liquid has been added to the slide, a coverslip is placed on top and the specimen is ready for examination under the microscope.

The second method of preparing specimens for light microscopy is fixation . The “fixing” of a sample refers to the process of attaching cells to a slide. Fixation is often achieved either by heating ( heat fixing ) or chemically treating the specimen. In addition to attaching the specimen to the slide, fixation also kills microorganisms in the specimen, stopping their movement and metabolism while preserving the integrity of their cellular components for observation.

To heat-fix a sample, a thin layer of the specimen is spread on the slide (called a smear ), and the slide is then briefly heated over a heat source ( [link] ). Chemical fixatives are often preferable to heat for tissue specimens. Chemical agents such as acetic acid, ethanol, methanol, formaldehyde (formalin), and glutaraldehyde can denature proteins, stop biochemical reactions, and stabilize cell structures in tissue samples ( [link] ).

Photograph a shows a slide sitting on a flat heating surface. Photograph b shows a person holding a slide against a heated metal cylinder. Photograph c shows a bit of tissue in a container of clear liquid. Caption reads Fixing tissue: fixation to preserve tissue and maintain life-like structure; place into fixative (eg 10% formalin).
(a) A specimen can be heat-fixed by using a slide warmer like this one. (b) Another method for heat-fixing a specimen is to hold a slide with a smear over a microincinerator. (c) This tissue sample is being fixed in a solution of formalin (also known as formaldehyde). Chemical fixation kills microorganisms in the specimen, stopping degradation of the tissues and preserving their structure so that they can be examined later under the microscope. (credit a: modification of work by Nina Parker; credit b: modification of work by Nina Parker; credit c: modification of work by “University of Bristol”/YouTube)

Questions & Answers

what is cell
Avi Reply
is unit of life
Kamaluddeen
Ok
mohamed
who is an industrial microbiologist
Cynthia Reply
I want to know the biochemical composition of bacteria
Josh Reply
It contains peptidoglcon, DNA nd RNA
Asiya
bacteriophage disadvantage
Momina Reply
disease due to __________ abnormalities are termed primary immunodeficiencies
Tayee Reply
Some primary immunodeficiencies are due to a defect of a single cellular or humoral component of the immune system.
Prince
Examples of primary immunodeficiencies include: chronic granulomatous disease, X-linked agammaglobulinemia, selective IgA deficiency etc
Prince
thank you
Nana
explain microbial mutation
Emerald
what is mutation
Cynthia Reply
alteration in genetic makeup
UDEME
Hi, I'm new here. I'm Bello Abdul Hakeem from Nigeria.
BELLO Reply
welcome on board
Kamaluddeen
Thanks brother I'm an undergraduate. I hope to study for MBBS.
BELLO
pls guys help me out
Linda
what is limitation of plate
Linda
limitation of plate load test . there are some that should be considered while performing load test which are given below, this test is usually performed on relatively similar plate ,usually 1 or 2 square foot area the reason is that the plate of greater are the economically not feasible
yemi
iam new here my name shafiu umar from Nigeria
Shafiu
thanks shafiu
gambo
how to differentiate Gram positive from Gram negative bacteria?
Faheem
by the cell membrane
Tim
with gram staining which has 4 steps
Freedom
Mechanism of bacterial pathogenicity
rashida Reply
Toxicity
Ibrahim
write a short note on Algea
najaatu Reply
green minutes plants organisms that are produced in turf.
Prince
Algae is a kind of a photosynthetic organism, which is usually grown in the moist areas. These are usually the simple plants that grow near to the water bodies. It contains a kind of chlorophyll pigments that act as a primary coloring agent.
Avi
they are eukaryotic and most lived in fresh water. they are photosynthetic that's, they contain chlorophyll and store starch in discrete chloroplast.
Prince
are bacteria important to man
just Reply
yes, depending on the type of bacteria .eg the normal florals, the latic acid batteries etc are important to man
Lois
I mean latic acid bacterial
Lois
I don't understand this topic
Jane Reply
what topic is that
Rose
sahi kon hai bhosri ke
saurabh Reply
define metabolism of carbohydrates with example
Thavasi Reply
what is sterilization a
Sani
the process of keep equipment free from bacteria
shar
is it only bacteria?
Lois
no undesirable fungi and contamination also.
Khushbu
what is streak plate method
Offikwu
what is the biofilm
Dimingu
metabolism is the sum of all the biochemical reaction required for energy generation and use of that energy to synthesize cell materials from small molecules in environment.
Alex
boclenia
Pooja
what are granulocytes
Shawnitta Reply
e.coli
Sukhdeep
granulocytes are type of WBCs which contains granules in the cytoplasm
Owili
what is mutation
Cynthia
it is the interchange of genes from their normal sequence
Esther
is an heritable change of the base-pair sequence of genetic material
Elizabeth
suitable example for prokaryotes
Suvetha Reply
one of the possible early sources of energy was
Suvetha
uv radiation and lighting
Anisha
e coli is the example of prokaryotes
Sukhdeep
archaea too
Noel

Get the best Microbiology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Microbiology. OpenStax CNX. Nov 01, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12087/1.4
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Microbiology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask