The proper collection of a specimen for culture is the most important step in the recovery of pathogenic organisms responsible for infectious disease. A poorly collected specimen may lead to failure in isolating the causative organism(s) and/or result in the recovery of contaminating organisms
Basic Concepts for Specimen Collection
- Collect the specimen from the actual site of infection, avoiding contamination from adjacent tissues or secretions.
- Collect the specimen at optimal times (for example, early morning sputum for AFB culture).
- Collect a sufficient quantity of material. Use appropriate collection devices: sterile, leak-proof specimen containers. Use appropriate transport media (anaerobe transport vials, Culturette for bacterial culture, Cary-Blair for stool culture, M4RT for viral and Chlamydia cultures). Check expiration date before inoculating collection device.
- Whenever possible, collect specimens prior to administration of antimicrobials.
- Properly label the specimen and complete the test request form. The specific source of specimen is required. Example: wound, left leg.
- Minimize transport time. Maintain an appropriate environment between collection of specimens and delivery to the laboratory.