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Specimen/optimal sampling and testing

Discusses specimen testing and collection.
close up photo of test tubes with colourful lids
© BSAC

Specimens submitted for microbiological testing require proper handling from the time of collection through all stages of transport, storage, and processing.

Issues common to all clinical specimens submitted for microbiological testing include not only proper identification but also collection techniques that maximise recovery of microbial pathogens and minimise contamination.

For specimens such as sputum and urine, the relative proportions of microorganisms present in vivo must be preserved, or culture results may be misleading. If specimens are handled properly, culture results are easier to interpret, patient care is improved, and costs are potentially decreased. Although most guidelines for specimen handling remain unchanged, a recent emphasis has been placed on modifying traditional practices to decrease or eliminate unnecessary work, increase laboratory efficiency, and make microbiological testing more cost effective.

Most laboratories have guidelines around specimen collection and handling and while they will vary slightly form place to place, as we mentioned previously, most will have the same core principles. To take a look at a few examples of laboratory guidelines for specimen collection and handling please look at the links in the see also section below.

© BSAC
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Introduction to Practical Microbiology

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