Dec 05 2011

Bury the Buzzword: Clue Cells

This is the first post in a new series where I take medical buzzwords, define them, and explain them so that you can bury them! Buzzwords are helpful in answering questions on the boards, but the USMLE and COMLEX will not always use them. It is important to know the definitions of what the buzzwords mean, and not just memorize which words go with which pathology. This series will allow you to bury the buzzword with the knowledge of what lies behind it!

This first post will define the buzzword Clue Cells.

Clue cells are included as a part of the Amsel criteria for diagnosing bacterial vaginosis. They refer to the appearance of epithelial cells from the vagina when looked at under the microscope. When infected with bacterial vaginosis, the epithelial cells get covered with the bacteria. It is all these bacteria that make the cells take on a grainy appearance. Additionally, the edges of the cells and the spaces between them become harder to define because of all the attached bacteria.

A mnemonic to remember this is with the saying “I don’t have a clue where one cell ends and another begins because of all these bacteria!

Fauci, Anthony S., and Tinsley Randolph Harrison. “Sexually Transmitted Infections: Overview and Clinical Approach.” Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2008. Print.

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