Gram-negative: Gram-negative bacteria lose the crystal violet stain (and take the color of the red counterstain) in Gram's method of staining. This is characteristic of bacteria that have a cell wall composed of a thin layer of a particular substance (called peptidoglycan).
The Gram-negative bacteria include most of the bacteria normally found in the gastrointestinal tract that can be responsible for disease as well as gonococci (venereal disease) and meningococci (bacterial meningitis). The organisms responsible for cholera and bubonic plague are Gram-negative.
The Danish bacteriologist J.M.C. Gram (1853-1938) devised this 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.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016