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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

  1. Collect the specimen from the actual site of infection, avoiding contamination from adjacent tissues or secretions.
  2. Collect the specimen at optimal times (for example, early morning sputum for AFB culture).
  3. 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.
  4. Whenever possible, collect specimens prior to administration of antimicrobials.
  5. Properly label the specimen and complete the test request form. The specific source of specimen is required. Example: wound, left leg.
  6. Minimize transport time. Maintain an appropriate environment between collection of specimens and delivery to the laboratory.

Microbiology Reference Guides