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Definition of Gram-positive

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Gram-positive: Gram-positive bacteria retain the color of the crystal violet stain in the Gram stain. This is characteristic of bacteria that have a cell wall composed of a thick layer of a particular substance (called peptidologlycan).

The Gram-positive bacteria include staphylococci ("staph"), streptococci ("strep"), pneumococci, and the bacterium responsible for diphtheria (Cornynebacterium diphtheriae) and anthrax (Bacillus anthracis).

The Danish bacteriologist J.M.C. Gram (1853-1938) devised a method of staining bacteria using a dye called crystal (gentian) violet. Gram's method helps distinguish between different types of bacteria. The gram-staining characteristics of bacteria are denoted as positive or negative, depending upon whether the bacteria take up and retain the crystal violet stain or not.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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