Albert stain helps in detecting the presence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae. This is a bacteria causing diphtheria. Swabs taken from the patient's throat are usually used to perform the test with Albert stain. These swabs are then subjected to culture studies in appropriate environment. They are later examined under a microscope to detect presence of the causative agent.
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Corynebacterium diphtheriae contains a specific component known as metachromatic granules or food granules. These granules appear in a different colour when exposed to chemical stains and observed under a microscope. These granules appear blue-black when exposed to Albert stain. This is the diagnostic basis of the test.
Cornybacterium may sometimes be confused with other bacteria having similar appearance on microscopic study. But the other bacteria do not have food granules, which becomes the differentiating feature.
Unlike other investigative tests like X-Ray, sonography, MRI, this test does not need the patient to be present for all the time when the specimen is being tested. He/she needs to stay just long enough for the throat swab to be collected.
People who manifest symptoms of diphtheria (cough, fever, painful swelling in the throat, difficult breathing) must undergo Albert stain test after proper advice from the physician. This test is not the only diagnostic feature for diphtheria but is one of the important tests.