Acid Fast Stain
The acid-fast stain is a differential stain used to identify acid-fast organisms such as members of the genus Mycobacterium .
Acid-fast organisms are characterized by wax-like, nearly impermeable cell walls; they contain mycolic acid and large amounts of fatty acids, waxes, and complex lipids. Acid-fast organisms are highly resistant to disinfectants and dry conditions.
Because the cell wall is so resistant to most compounds, acid-fast organisms require a special staining technique. The primary stain used in acid-fast staining, carbolfuchsin, is lipid-soluble and contains phenol, which helps the stain penetrate the cell wall. This is further assisted by the addition of heat. The smear is then rinsed with a very strong decolorizer, which strips the stain from all non-acid-fast cells but does not permeate the cell wall of acid-fast organisms. The decolorized non-acid-fast cells then take up the counterstain.
In our lab, we use the Ziehl-Neelsen method but not the Kinyoun method.
The staining procedure is here.