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Published in Microbiology
Friday, 13 May 2016 07:55

(1) A small drop of blood (2-3 mm in diameter) is placed in the center line about 1 cm away from one end of a glass slide (typical size of slide is 75 × 25 mm; thickness about 1mm) with a wooden stick or glass capillary. Slide should be clean, dry, and grease-free. Blood sample may be venous (anticoagulated with EDTA) or capillary (finger prick). Better blood cell morphology is obtained if smear is made directly from a skin puncture. If EDTA-anticoagulated venous blood is used, smear should be prepared and stained within 2 hours of blood collection. If venous blood collected in a syringe is used, the last drop of blood in the needle after withdrawing (or first drop while dispensing) should be used.
(2) A 'spreader' slide is placed at an angle of 30° in front of the drop and then drawn back to touch the drop of blood. Blood spreads across the line of contact of two slides.
(3) Smear is made by smooth, forward movement of the 'spreader' along the slide. The whole drop should be used up 1 cm before the end of the slide. The length of the smear should be about 3 cm. The 'spreader' should not be raised above the slide surface till whole drop of blood is spread out.
(4) Smear is rapidly dried by waving it in the air or keeping it under an electric fan. Slow drying causes shrinkage artifact of red cells.
(5) Patient's name or laboratory number and date are written (with a lead pencil, a permanent marker pen, or a diamond pencil) on the thicker end of the smear.
(6) The smear is fixed immediately with absolute methyl alcohol (which should be moisture- and acetone-free) for 2-3 minutes in a covered jar (Absolute ethyl alcohol can also be used, but not methylated spirit as it contains water). Aim of fixation is to prevent washing off of the smear from the slide. Following this, color of the smear becomes light brown. This fixation is desirable even when Leishman stain is used which contains methyl alcohol. This is because Leishman stain may have absorbed moisture leading to poor fixation. If methanol is contaminated with water, sharpness of cell morphology is lost and there is vacuolation of red cells. Methanol should be acetone-free since acetone washes out nuclear stain. (In many laboratories, slide is stained immediately after air-drying without prior fixation, and the results are satisfactory; however, if delay of >4 hours is anticipated between air-drying and staining, the slide should be fixed. If not, a background gray-blue staining of plasma occurs).
(1) Making a 'spreader' slide—a glass slide with absolutely smooth edges should be selected and one or both corners at one end of the slide should be broken off. The 'spreader' slide should be narrower (width of about 15 mm) so that edges of the smear can be examined microscopically. The 'spreader' slide should be discarded after use. If the same is to be reused, its edge should be thoroughly cleaned and dried (otherwise carryover of cells or parasites can occur).
(2) A well-spread blood smear (a) is tongue-shaped with a smooth tail, (b) does not cover the entire area of the slide, (c) has both thick and thin areas with gradual transition, and (d) does not contain any lines or holes.
(3) By changing the angle of the 'spreader' and its speed, thickness of the blood smear can be controlled. In patients with anemia, a thicker smear can be obtained by increasing the angle and the speed of spreading. In patients with polycythemia, a thinner smear is obtained by decreasing the 'spreader' angle and the speed of spreading.
(4) Anticoagulant used may be EDTA (dipotassium salt) or sodium citrate. Heparin should not be used as an anticoagulant for making blood films since it causes platelet clumping and imparts a blue background to the film.
(5) It is recommended to stain blood films in reagent filled Coplin jars (rather than covering them with the staining solution) to avoid formation of stain precipitates due to evaporation.
(6) A drawback of this method is uneven distribution of leukocytes (i.e. monocytes, neutrophils, and abnormal cells are pushed towards the extreme tail end of the smear) and distortion of red cell morphology at the edges.
(7) Blood smear is covered with a coverslip and mounted in a mounting medium (e.g. DPX) for protection against mechanical damage and deterioration of staining with time on exposure to air.
(8) Cleaning of slides: (A) New slides: If new slides are not clean and grease-free, they are left overnight in a detergent solution, washed in running tap water, rinsed in distilled water, and wiped dry with a clean cloth. Before use, they are wiped with 95% methyl alcohol, dried, and then kept covered to protect from dust. (B) Used slides: The used slides are soaked in a detergent solution at 60°C for 20 minutes, washed in running tap water, rinsed in distilled water, and then wiped dry. Before use, they are wiped with 95% methyl alcohol, dried, and then kept covered to protect from dust.


Blood smears are routinely stained by one of the Romanowsky stains. Romanowsky stains consist of a combination of acidic and basic dyes and after staining various intermediate shades are obtained between the two polar (red and blue) stains. Romanowsky stains include May-Grunwald-Giemsa, Jenner, Wright's, Leishman's, and Field's stains. Staining properties of the Romanowsky stains are dependent on two synthetic dyes: methylene blue and eosin. International Committee for Standardization in Haematology has recommended a highly purified standardized stain, which contains azure B and eosin Y; it, however, is very expensive. Romanowsky stains are insoluble in water but soluble in methyl alcohol. Methyl alcohol acts as a solvent as well as a fixative. Staining reaction is pH-dependent. These stains have a tendency towards precipitation and should be filtered before use.
Methylene blue and azure B are basic (cationic) dyes and have affinity for acidic components of the cells (like nucleic acids or basophil granules) and impart purpleviolet color to the nuclear chromatin, dark blue-violet color to the basophil granules, and deep blue color to the cytoplasm of lymphocytes. Eosin is an acidic (anionic) dye and has affinity for basic components like hemoglobin (stained pink-red), and granules in eosinophils (stained orange-red). Neutrophil granules are slightly basic and stain violet-pink or lilac.
Romanowsky stains impart more colours than just blue (from methylene blue or azure B) and red-orange (from eosin Y). Usefulness of the Romanowsky stains lies in their ability to differentially stain leucocyte granules.
A well-stained smear is pink in color in thinner portion and purple-blue in thicker portion. Excess blue coloration can be due to: (i) excessively thick smear, (ii) low concentration of eosin, (iii) impure dyes, (iv) too long staining time, (v) inadequate washing, or (vi) excessive alkaline pH of stain, buffer, or water. Excess red coloration can be due to: (i) impure dyes or incorrect proportion of dyes, (ii) excessive acid pH of stain, buffer, or water (as the red cells take up more acid dye i.e. eosin), (iii) too short staining time, or (iv) excessive washing. If there are granules of stain precipitate (masses of small black dots) on smear, stain needs to be filtered.
Method of Leishman staining is given below:

(1) Leishman stain: William Boog Leishman, a British pathologist, modified the original Romanowsky method and devised a stain which is widely known as Leishman's stain. This consists of methylene blue and eosin dissolved in absolute methyl alcohol. Commercially available Leishman stain powder (0.6 gram) is mixed with water-free absolute methyl alcohol (400 ml). Prepared stain should be kept tightly stoppered in a brown bottle and stored in a cool, dark place at room temperature. Exposure to direct sunlight causes deterioration of the stain. After preparation, stain should be kept for 3-5 days before using since it improves the quality of the stain.
(2) Buffered water (pH 6.8).

(1) Air-dry the smear and fix with methanol for 2-3 minutes.
(2) Cover the smear with Leishman stain for 2 minutes.
(3) After 2 minutes, add twice the volume of buffered water and leave for 5-7 minutes. A scum of metallic sheen forms on the surface.
(4) Wash the stain away in a stream of buffered water. Tap water can also be used for washing if it is not highly alkaline or highly acid.
(5) Wipe the back of the slide clean and set it upright in the draining rack to dry.
(6) Mount the slide in a suitable mounting medium (e.g. DPX) with a clean and dry 25 × 25 mm coverslip.
• Red cells: pink-red or deep pink
• Polychromatic cells (Reticulocyt-es): Gray-blue
• Neutrophils: Pale pink cytopla-sm; mauve-purple granules
• Eosinophils: Pale-pink cytoplasm; orange-red granules
• Basophils: Blue cytoplasm; dark blue-violet granules
• Monocytes: Gray-blue cytoplasm; fine reddish (azurophil) granules
• Small lymphocytes: Dark blue cy-toplasm
• Platelets: Purple
• Nuclei of all cells: Purple-violet

Blood Smear

Published in Microbiology
Thursday, 12 May 2016 21:04
Blood Smear

A blood film or peripheral blood smear is a thin layer of blood smeared on a microscope slide and then stained in such a way to allow the various blood cells to be examined microscopically. Blood films are usually examined to investigate hematological problems (disorders of the blood) and, occasionally, to look for parasites within the blood such as malaria and filaria.
Blood films are made by placing a drop of blood on one end of a slide, and using a spreader slide to disperse the blood over the slide's length. The aim is to get a region, called a monolayer, where the cells are spaced far enough apart to be counted and differentiated. The monolayer is found in the "feathered edge" created by the spreader slide as it draws the blood forward.
The slide is left to air dry, after which the blood is fixed to the slide by immersing it briefly in methanol. The fixative is essential for good staining and presentation of cellular detail. After fixation, the slide is stained to distinguish the cells from each other.
Routine analysis of blood in medical laboratories is usually performed on blood films stained with Romanowsky, Wright's, or Giemsa stain. Wright-Giemsa combination stain is also a popular choice. These stains allow for the detection of white blood cell, red blood cell, and platelet abnormalities. Hematopathologists often use other specialized stains to aid in the differential diagnosis of blood disorders.
After staining, the monolayer is viewed under a microscope using magnification up to 1000x. Individual cells are examined and their morphology is characterized and recorded.
(1) Blood smear is helpful in suggesting the cause of anemia or thrombocytopenia, identifying and typing of leukemia, and in diagnosing hemoparasitic infections (malaria, filaria, and trypanosomiasis). It is also helpful in the management of these conditions.
(2) To monitor the effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on bone marrow.
(3) To provide direction for further investigations that will help in arriving at the correct diagnosis (e.g. in infections, drug toxicity, etc.). Blood smear examination is therefore indicated in clinically suspected cases of anemia, thrombocytopenia, hematological malignancies (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma), disseminated intravascular coagulation, parasitic infections (like malaria or filaria), infectious mononucleosis, and various inflammatory, or malignant diseases.
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