A new fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) method with peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probes for identification of Staphylococcus aureus directly from positive blood culture bottles that contain gram-positive cocci in clusters (GPCC) is described. The test (the S. aureus PNA FISH assay) is based on a fluorescein-labeled PNA probe that targets a species-specific sequence of the 16S rRNA of S. aureus. Evaluations with 17 reference strains and 48 clinical isolates, including methicillin-resistant and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus species, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species, and other clinically relevant and phylogenetically related bacteria and yeast species, showed that the assay had 100% sensitivity and 96% specificity. Clinical trials with 87 blood cultures positive for GPCC correctly identified 36 of 37 (97%) of the S. aureus-positive cultures identified by standard microbiological methods. The positive and negative predictive values were 100 and 98%, respectively. It is concluded that this rapid method (2.5 h) for identification of S. aureus directly from blood culture bottles that contain GPCC offers important information for optimal antibiotic therapy.