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Giemsa Stain

Giemsa stain is a type of Romanowsky stain, named after Gustav Giemsa, a German chemist who created a dye solution. It was primarily designed for the demonstration of malarial parasites in blood smears, but it is also employed in histology for routine examination of blood smear.

Giemsa Stain

Principle:

Giemsa stain is a differential stain and contains a mixture of Azure, Methylene blue, and Eosin dye. It is specific for the phosphate groups of DNA and attaches itself to where there are high amounts of adenine-thymine bonding.

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Uses of Giemsa Stain

Apart from staining malarial parasites, Giemsa stain has a variety of applications in Microbiology and Pathology:

  • Giemsa stain is used to obtain differential white blood cell counts.
  • It is also used to differentiate nuclear and cytoplasmic morphology of the various blood cells like platelets, RBCs, WBCs.
  • In Microbiology, Giemsa stain is used for staining inclusion bodies in Chlamydia trachomatis, Borrelia species, and if Wayson’s stain is not available, to stain Yersinia pestis. Giemsa stain also is used to stain Histoplasma capsulatum, Pneumocystis jiroveci, Klebsiella granulomatis, Penicillium marneffei and occasionally bacterial capsules.
  • This stain is also used in cytogenetics to stain the chromosomes and identify chromosomal aberrations. It is commonly used for G-banding (Giemsa-Banding)

Composition:

Ingredients  Gm/L
Giemsa powder7.6
Glycerol500 ml
Methanol500 ml

Procedure:

The method for staining, concentration and timing of stain used varies according to the purpose, for example, thin blood smears use 1:20 dilution of stock whereas for thick blood smear 1:50 dilution is used.

For Thin blood smear

  1. Fix air-dried film in absolute methanol by dipping the film briefly (two dips) in a Coplin jar containing absolute methanol.
  2. Remove and let air dry.
  3. Stain with diluted Giemsa stain (1:20, vol/vol) for 20 min (For a 1:20 dilution, add 2 ml of stock Giemsa to 40 ml of buffered water in a Coplin jar).
  4. Wash by briefly dipping the slide in and out of a Coplin jar of buffered water (one or two dips).
    Note: Excessive washing will decolorize the film.
  5. Let air dry in a vertical position. Observe under the microscope first at 40X and then using oil immersion lens

For Thick blood smears

  1. Allow the film to air dry thoroughly for several hours or overnight. Do not dry films in an incubator or by heat, because this will fix the blood and interfere with the lysing of the RBCs.
    Note: If a rapid diagnosis of malaria is needed, thick films can be made slightly thinner than usual, allowed to dry for 1 hour, and then stained.
  2. DO NOT FIX.
  3. Stain with diluted Giemsa stain (1:50, vol/vol) for 50 min (For a 1:50 dilution, add 1 ml of stock Giemsa to 50 ml of buffered water in a Coplin jar)
  4. Wash by placing the film in buffered water for 3 to 5 min.
  5. Let air dry in a vertical position and observe under the microscope first at 40X and then using oil immersion lens

For Chlamydia trachomatis

Follow the aforementioned steps but with the dilute stain of 1:40 dilution (add 0.5 ml stock Giemsa solution to 19.5 ml buffered water) and leave the stain for 90-120 minutes.

Results

Cell ComponenetsColor observed after staining
Red blood c ellsMauve-pink
NeutrophilsReddish purple nuclei with pink cytoplasm
EosinophilsPurple nuclei, faintly pink cytoplasm and red to orange granules.
BasophilsPurple nuclei, blue coarse granules.
LymphocytesDark blue nucleus with light blue cytoplasm.
MonocytesPink cytoplasm with a purple color nucleus.
PlateletsViolet to purple color granules.
Nuclei of host cellsDark purple
Nuclei of WBCsDark purple
Cytoplasm of host cellsPale blue
Cytoplasm of  white cellsPale blue or grey-blue
Melanin granulesBlack green
BacteriaPale or dark blue
Chlymadia trachomatis inclusion bodiesBlue-mauve to dark purple depending on the stage of development
Borrelia spirochetesMauve-purple
Yersinina pestis coccobacilliBlue with dark stained ends (bipolar staining)
Malaria parasiteMalaria parasites have a red or pink nucleus and blue cytoplasm. If P. vivax is seen, the Schüffner dots are seen as an even carpet of pink dots in the cytoplasm of red blood cellsIf P. falciparum is observed, Maurer clefts will be seen as unevenly distributed, coarse bodies in the red cell cytoplasm.
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