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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Reading and Reporting Gram Stained Direct Smears. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Provide the Clinician With Same-Day Information Regarding Possible Pathogens

Cultures often require 24 or more hours before a pathogen can be recovered. A Gram stain can give preliminary information about the type of bacterial and/or fungal organisms that are present.

A rapid diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, made after examining a gram-stained smear of the patient's cerebrospinal fluid, allows the physician to begin treatment immediately.

Intracellular gram-negative diplococci observed in a male urethral specimen may be confirmatory of the diagnosis of gonorrhea. Cultures may not even be needed unless susceptibilities are required. (In the female genital specimen, the presence of gram-negative diplococci is not specific enough to confirm the diagnosis, and a culture or other confirmatory testing must be performed).