Smarter Decisions,
Better Care

UpToDate synthesizes the most recent medical information into evidence-based practical recommendations clinicians trust to make the right point-of-care decisions.

  • Rigorous editorial process: Evidence-based treatment recommendations
  • World-Renowned physician authors: over 5,100 physician authors and editors around the globe
  • Innovative technology: integrates into the workflow; access from EMRs

Choose from the list below to learn more about subscriptions for a:


Subscribers log in here


Microbiology specimen collection and transport

INTRODUCTION

The goal of microbiologic evaluation is to provide accurate, clinically pertinent results in a timely manner. The quality of the specimens submitted to the microbiology laboratory is critical for optimal specimen evaluation.

The general techniques of specimen collection and handling that have been established both to maximize the yield of organisms and isolate relevant pathogens from specimens obtained from different body sites will be reviewed here (table 1A-D). The techniques of collecting specific specimens such as blood, sputum, and urine are discussed in more detail separately. (See "Blood cultures for the detection of bacteremia" and "Sputum cultures for the evaluation of bacterial pneumonia" and "Sampling and evaluation of voided urine in the diagnosis of urinary tract infection in adults".)

SPECIMEN COLLECTION

Valid interpretation of the results of culture can be achieved only if the specimen obtained is appropriate for processing. As a result, care must be taken to collect only those specimens that may yield pathogens, rather than colonizing flora or contaminants. Specific rules for the collection of material vary, depending upon the source of the specimen, but several general principles apply [1-3]:

Make every effort to obtain specimens prior to the initiation of antimicrobial therapy.

Wear gloves, gowns, masks, and/or goggles, when appropriate, when collecting specimens from sterile sites. Use strict aseptic technique.

   

Subscribers log in here

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information or to purchase a personal subscription, click below on the option that best describes you:
Literature review current through: Aug 2014. | This topic last updated: Mar 13, 2014.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2014 UpToDate, Inc.
References
Top
  1. Wilson ML. General principles of specimen collection and transport. Clin Infect Dis 1996; 22:766.
  2. Miller, JM, Krisher, K, Holmes, HT. General principles of specimen collection and handling. In: Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 9th ed, Murray, PR, Baron, EJ, Jorgensen, JH, et al (Eds), American Society for Microbiology, Washington 2007. p.43.
  3. Specimen Management. In: Bailey & Scott's Diagnostic Microbiology, 12th ed, Forbes, BA, Sahm, DF, Weissfeld, AS (Eds), Mosby, Elsevier, St. Louis, 2007. p 62.