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Gram-Positive Organisms Recovered From Culture

Depending on the culture medium (liquid or solid) used to isolate the organism, certain cellular arrangements may not be noted. The Gram stain morphology is often less characteristic when smears are prepared from colonies growing on the agar surface. The information contained in the table can still prove helpful, especially for isolates recovered from broth.

Oxygen Requirement/Gram Stain CharacteristicsCommon SpeciesCharacteristic Gram Stain Morphology/Comments
Aerobic, gram-positive cocci (GPC)
Staphylococcus
Streptococcus
Enterococcus

  • Staphylococcus species: GPC in clusters or tetrads.
  • Streptococcus species: GPC in singles, pairs, or short to long chains.
  • S. pneumoniae: GPC in pairs that are lancet-shaped, occasionally with a capsule that appears as a "halo" surrounding the organisms.
Aerobic, gram-positive rods (GPRs)
Bacillus
Lactobacillus
Nocardia
  • Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Mycobacterium species RARELY exhibit a diphtheroid or "picket-fence" morphology.
  • Bacillus: Large GPRs, often in pairs or chains, with rounded or square ends and usually a single endospore. The location of the spore is different in various species. Characteristically, Bacillus species tend to stain gram-negative as they age.
  • Lactobacillus: Long, slender GPRs, often in long chains like spaghetti.
  • Nocardia: Branching, long, thin filaments. May demonstrate the diphtheroid appearance; tend to stain with a beaded, gram-variable pattern.
    Anaerobic, GPRs
    Clostridium
    Actinomyces
    • Clostridium species RARELY exhibit a diphtheroidal morphology. They are large, "box-car" shaped bacilli that may contain spores. May decolorize easily, appearing to be gram-negative.
    • Actinomyces is a thin, filamentous (branching) GPR that can demonstrate a diphtheroidal appearance.
    Facultative anaerobic, GPRs
    Listeria
    Erysipelothrix
    Corynebacterium
    • These organisms can demonstrate a diphtheroid or "picket-fence" arrangement.
    • Listeria: Short, coccobacillus
    • Erysipelothrix: Short, slender, slightly curved, and sometimes forming long filaments.
    • Corynebacterium: Small, palisading GRPs