Google and the Gram: celebrating the stain used in every laboratory

On 13th September the daily Google Doodle celebrated the 166th birthday of Hans Christian Gram – the man behind the Gram stain.

Developed in 1884, Gram staining is a staining technique that aids in the identification and characterization of bacteria.

Gram was a Danish physician and bacteriologist who intended to make bacteria more visible in stained sections of lung tissue, and in turn, developed the most widely used method of staining bacterial cells.

“After so many years, we still use Gram staining in labs,” says Dr Petra Derrington, a Queensland based microbiologist.

“Currently all microbiology labs still use Gram stains to give us the initial information about what organism is present in a specimen.

“Therefore, we are able to determine the empiric therapy needed for that patient.”

However, there have been changes to the method since the late-1800’s with the advancements of technology and quality.

“Today there are automated Gram stains done in the lab, which ensures better quality and better reproducibility.”

Microbiologists working in labs today use Gram stains to test patients for the presence of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

Fast diagnosis or ruling out of bacterial infections ensures the correct treatment is provided quickly. This not only helps the patient to recover faster but also aids in the fight against antibiotic resistance by limiting the use of unnecessary antibiotics.

To learn more about what a microbiologist does, check out or profile of Dr Petra Derrington here.