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

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Gram-Stained Smears From Culture: Importance and Reporting

The culture smear is used to determine the staining characteristic, size, shape, and cellular arrangement of the unknown organism. This data helps the microbiologist to decide on additional culture and identification methods.
By correlating the Gram stain reaction, size, shape, and cellular arrangement of the organism with colony morphology and growth requirements, the microbiologist may be able to tentatively identify the organism. This information may help the physician to optimize treatment until definitive culture and antibiotic susceptibility results become available.
Gram stain reaction and bacterial shape MUST be included in the report.
The cellular arrangement is usually not included in the report since it may vary depending on the culture medium (liquid or solid) used to isolate the organism. For certain organisms, the size of the organism may be "described" as tiny, large, and so on, but is an optional element. Always report based on the procedure of your laboratory.
The following 7 screens contain additional ungraded practice questions pertinent to the material covered.