Evaluation of intestinal protozoan morphology in human fecal specimens preserved in EcoFix: comparison of Wheatley's trichrome stain and EcoStain

J Clin Microbiol. 1998 Jul;36(7):1974-6.


As a result of disposal problems related to the use of mercury compounds, many laboratories have switched from mercuric chloride-based Schaudinn's and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) stool preservatives to other, non-mercury-based preservatives. A comparison of organism recoveries and morphologies of the intestinal protozoa was undertaken with PVA containing the EcoFix zinc-based Schaudinn's preservative (Meridian Diagnostics, Inc.); both Wheatley's modification of Gomori's trichrome stain (WT) and EcoStain (ES) were used to stain 51 human fecal specimens. Morphology, clarity of nuclear and cytoplasmic detail, overall color differences, and the ease or difficulty in detecting intestinal protozoa in fecal debris were assessed for the two permanent stained smears. Overall, organism morphology of the intestinal protozoa stained with WT and that of protozoa stained with ES were not equal in nuclear and cytoplasmic detail or range of color. However, the same organisms were identified in stained fecal smears with either WT or ES, with the exception of situations in which organism numbers were characterized as rare. Included were 67 protozoan challenges (number of organisms): Entamoeba histolytica-Entamoeba dispar (5), Entamoeba coli (9), Entamoeba hartmanni (6), Endolimax nana (12), Iodamoeba bütschlii (8), Blastocystis hominis (19), Giardia lamblia (6), Dientamoeba fragilis (2), yeast (2), and leukocytes (2). Five specimens were negative for parasites but contained fecal debris that was compared for morphologic detail and color range. The ES produces a more gray-green monotone with very little pink or red tone; contrast among the various colors is less than that seen with WT. Stain intensity for all organisms was acceptable, and there were no problems with stain deposition. The quality of the protozoan morphology with ES was often comparable to that with WT (36 of 67 [53.7%]) and, in some cases, better (24 of 67 [35.8%]). Organisms on the WT-stained smear exhibited better morphology in a few instances (4 of 67 [6%]), and in three instances, there were discrepant organism numbers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eukaryota / cytology*
  • Eukaryota / isolation & purification
  • Feces / parasitology*
  • Histocytological Preparation Techniques
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology*
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*
  • Tissue Fixation
  • Zinc Sulfate


  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol