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Gram-Twort Special Stain For Bacteria – Method and Tips


The Gram-Twort variation of the standard Gram stain is the most common variant used in histopathology laboratories for the demonstration of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in formalin-fixed sections.

The standard Gram stain was developed and reported in 1884 by Hans Christian Gram (therefore Gram stain should always be spelt with a capital). He developed the technique to distinguish a certain group of bacteria in lung tissue, but noted that Typhus Bacillus was not visualised. The standard Gram stain works on the premise that the peptidoglycan rich cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria is stained by the crystal violet and the Gram-negative bacteria take up the counterstain.

Below is the author’s method of choice.

Solutions

– Crystal Violet – 0.5% crystal violet in 25% alcohol

– Gram’s iodine – 1g iodine + 2g potassium iodide. Dissolve in a few mls of distilled water. Make up to 300ml with distilled water.

– Acetone

– Stock neutral red-fast green – 90ml of 0.2% neutral red in ethanol + 10 ml of 0.2% fast green in ethanol.

– 2% acetic acid in alcohol.

Method

1. Take sections to water.

2. Stain with filtered crystal violet for 2 minutes.

3. Wash well in tap water.

4. Treat sections with Gram’s iodine for 2 minutes.

5. Wash well in tap water.

6. Rinse sections with acetone until colour stops leeching from them (approx 5 seconds).

7. Counterstain with filtered neutral red-fast green (dilute stock 1 in 4 with distilled water) for 5 minutes.

8. Wash well in tap water.

9. Differentiate in 2% acetic acid in alcohol until red ceases to run from section (approx 5-10 seconds).

10. Rinse in alcohol.

11. Clear and mount in DPX-type mountant.

Tips

– Always run a positive control.

– If the Gram’s iodine step is missed it takes longer to differentiate and background staining is increased.

– If having problems with differentiation try completely drying section before differentiating. Blot dry and leave for 10 minutes to ensure complete dryness.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comment.

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Grocott Hexamine-Silver Special Stain For Fungus – Method and Tips


The Grocott Hexamine-Silver special stain is the method of choice for a large majority of histopathology laboratories for the demonstration of all fungi. The formalin-fixed sections are exposed to chromic acid which reacts with fungal cell wall polysaccharide components to form chromic acid-aldehydes. These then reduced by a hexamine-silver solution at an alkaline pH. This causes them to be selectively blackened.  It should be noted that this method is not specific for fungi but rarely fails to demonstrate any fungi within the test tissue.

Below is the author’s method of choice.

Solutions

5% aqueous chromic acid (chromium trioxide)

1% aqueous sodium metabisulphite

Stock hexamine-silver solution = 100ml 3% aqueous hexamine + 5% aqueous silver nitrate.

Working hexamine-silver solution = 2ml 5% aqueous sodium tetraborate (borax) + 25ml distilled water. Mix, then add 25ml stock hexamine-silver solution.

0.1% aqueous gold chloride

5% sodium thiosulphate

0.2% light green in 0.2% acetic acid

Method

1. Take sections to water.

2. Treat sections with chromic acid for 1 hour.

3. Wash thoroughly in tap water.

4. Treat with sodium metabisulphite solution for 1 minute.

5. Wash well in tap water.

6. Wash well in several changes of distilled water.

7. Treat sections with working hexamine solution (preheated in coplin jar at 56 degrees Celsius) at 56 degrees Celsius for 10-20 minutes. Check control sections to see if fungi are a dark brown colour, if not return to solution checking regularly at 3 minute intervals until correct colour achieved.

8. Wash in several changes of distilled water.

9. Treat sections with 0.1% aqueous gold chloride for 3 minutes.

10. Wash well in distilled water.

11. Treat sections with 5% sodium thiosulphate for 5 minutes.

12. Wash well with tap water.

13. Counterstain with 0.2% light green in 0.2% acetic acid for 1 minute.

14. Wash well in tap water.

15. Dehydrate, clear and mount.

 

Tips

– As with all other silver stains wash everything that you are going to use thoroughly with distilled water.

– Store the stock hexamine-silver solution at 4 degrees Celsius away from sunlight. It will keep for 1-2 months. If a white precipitate forms give it a good shake and it should redissolve.

– Do not extend the time in chromic acid too long as this can over oxidize the carbohydrates to carboxylic acid and therefore not take up the silver stain.

– Do not reduce the time in chromic acid as this will lead to under oxidation and therefore no take up of the silver stain.

– The chromic acid can be reused but its efficiency will decrease after each use.

– If the control sections are failing to stain even after extending the staining time in the heated hexamine-silver solution you have more than likely forgotten to add the borax. If so, you can just add it and continue with the stain.

– If you have a large amount of silver precipitate over your sections it is probably due to using low-grade silver.

– If you forget the sodium thiosulphate step you will not realise until after retrieving the slide from storage further in the future, as the remaining silver not removed will react with sunlight turning black.

– Try to keep your counterstain fairly light as dark counterstaining can mask fungal elements.

 

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments

Follow me on twitter (@skinpathology)

Keep an eye out for my website coming soon (www.skinpathonline.com)

Feel free to email me with any questions or queries on feedback@skinpathonline.com

 

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