Characteristics Shape of Pathogenic Bacteria

Fig: Characteristic shape of S. aureus and V. cholerae

This post was most recently updated on August 26th, 2019

Morphological characteristics of pathogenic bacteria helps us to identify them, when we stain microbiological specimens and view them under microscope.

Various Shapes of Bacteria
Various Shapes of Bacteria

In this blog post, i am going to share some of the distinguishing characteristics shapes of pathogenic bacteria.

  1. Vibrio choleraeComma “Curved” Shaped Gram negative rod
  2. Campylobacter:  Curved Gram negative rods that appear either comma or S shaped
  3. H. Influenzae: Small, Gram negative coccobacilli
  4. Staphylococci: Spherical, gram positive cocci arranged in irregular, grape like clusters
  5. Fig: Characteristic shape of S. aureus and V. cholerae
    Fig: Characteristic shape of S. aureus and V. cholerae

    Streptococci: Spherical, Gram positive cocci arranged in chains or pairs

  6. Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci): Gram positive lancet-shaped cocci arranged in pairs (diplococci) or short chains.
  7. Neisseria (N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis): Gram negative cocci that resemble paired kidney bean shaped
  8. Bacillus anthracis: Large, Gram positive rod with square ends, frequently found in chains
  9. Clostridium tetani: Gram positive rod with characteristics “tennis racket shaped” or “Drum stick appearance” (because of terminal spore)
  10. Clostridium perfringens: Large, Gram positive, “boxcar” shaped rods
  11. Fusobacterium spp: These pleomorphic, long Gram negative rods often with tapered “pointy” ends

    Fig: Gram Staining reaction: Fusobacterium spp
    Fig: Gram Staining reaction of Fusobacterium spp
  12. Corynebacteria: Gram positive rods that appear club shaped and are arranged in palisades or in V or L shaped formations (“Chinese-Letter” appearance
  13. Listeria monocytogenes: It is a small Gram positive rods arranged in V or L shaped formations similar to corynebacteria
  14. Spirochetes (Treponema, Leptospira, and Borrelia): Thin walled, flexible, spiral rods  (Corkscrew shaped) seen only by darkfield microscope and generally not seen in standard light microscope.
  15. Borrelia: They are corkscrew shaped and are larger than the Treponema, they can be viewed under a light microscope with Giemsa or Wright stains.
About Acharya Tankeshwar 428 Articles
Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. I am working as an Asst. Professor and Microbiologist at Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Nepal. If you want me to write about any posts that you found confusing/difficult, please mention in the comments below.


  1. what might be the implications be of some bacteria having an endospore for the transmission or control of certain diseases?

    • Hello Rosemary
      thank you for posting query. Sorry i could not understand your question well. One thing regarding bacterial endospore is, it is highly resistant to sterilization (by heat, chemicals or other commonly used methods). So high chances of contaminating surgical instruments or ointments or any other compounds. This will increase the risk of infection or transmission of diseases.

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