A gram stain of urethral discharge is a test used to identify bacteria in fluid from the tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra).
Urethral discharge gram stain
Fluid from the urethra is collected on a cotton swab. A sample from this swab is applied in a very thin layer to a microscope slide. A series of stains called a gram stain is applied to the specimen.
The stained smear is then examined under the microscope for the presence of bacteria. The color, size, and shape of the cells help identify the organism causing the infection.
This test is often performed in the health care provider's office.
You may feel pressure or burning when the cotton swab touches the urethra.
The test is performed when an abnormal urethral discharge is present. It may be performed if a sexually transmitted disease is suspected.
No presence of organisms is normal.
Abnormal results may indicate gonorrhea or other infections.
There are no risks.
A culture of the specimen (urethral discharge culture) should be performed in addition to the gram stain. More sophisticated diagnostic tests (such as PCR tests) are sometimes also done.
Workowski KA, Berman SM. Diseases characterized by urethritis and cervicitis. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR. 2006 Aug 4;55(RR-11):35-49.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update to CDC's sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2006: fluoroquinolones no longer recommended for treatment of gonococcal infections. MMWR.2007 Apr 13;56(14):332-6.
Review Date: 8/9/2009
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