Proper specimen collection and transport are vital to provide valid microbiology test results. Please follow these general guidelines when obtaining, storing, and delivering specimens for analysis:
- Always explain specific specimen collection procedures to the patient.
- Use a sterile container and practice good aseptic technique.
- When using a culturette, make sure that the swab has been properly reseated to saturate the swab with the medium. This aids in the preservation of organisms. Also, check the expiration date of the culturette.
- All specimen containers must be properly sealed for safe handling.
- Place the specimen in the sealable portion of the biohazard specimen transport bag. The Test Requisition should be placed in the outer pocket and not with the specimen. This will help eliminate potential contamination of the form.
- After the specimen is obtained, it should be stored properly and delivered promptly to the laboratory.
Specific collection and handling guidelines are described in the following sections.
Specimen Labeling and Requisitions
Complete patient demographic and clinical information is essential for proper specimen processing. On the Test Requisition, please provide the patient's full name (first and last), social security number, sex, age, specimen source, specific body site (e.g., right toe), collection date and time, test(s) ordered, any antibiotics the patient is currently receiving, or that have been prescribed and special requests for specific types of infection or organisims expected. Additionally, the specimen container must be labeled with the patient's full name (first and last), date of birth and date of collection.
Direct Gram Smear
Submit an air-dried, properly labeled smear in a labeled slide holder, a swab in transport media, or the actual clinical material to be Gram stained. All body fluids, sputum, and wound cultures will include a Gram stain if two swabs are collected. Other specimen types will be stained upon request. Specify the source of all specimens for Gram stain.
Routine Genital Culture
Thoroughly swab the genital area with a sterile culturette. Pathology Laboratories will routinely check for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Group B Streptococcus, Gardnerella vaginalis, and other aerobic bacteria.
- Please identify the specific body site.
- It is important that the swab stay moist.
- Susceptibility studies will be done if requested or indicated.
- A Gram stain will be done if requested and/or with a diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis, but requires two swabs.
- Transport at room temperature within 24 hours.
Fecal (Stool) Culture
Since enteric infections are often due to highly contagious organisms, fecal specimens must be handled with extreme caution. The outside of the container and requisition must remain clean. Specimens should generally not be transported in diapers.
For all cultures, additional testing methods may be necessary to identify an organism after initial growth. Susceptibility studies will be performed if requested or as is medically indicated and by following standard, clinically accepted microbiology practices.