Microbiology General Guidelines
Safety considerations for collection and transport of specimens are as follows:
- Follow standard precautions. Treat all specimens as potentially hazardous.
- Personnel must use appropriate barrier protection (such as gloves and laboratory coat
or gown) when collecting or handling specimens. If splashing may occur, protective eyewear,
face masks and aprons may be necessary.
- Do not contaminate the external surface of the collection container and/or its accompanying
- Minimize direct handling of specimens in transit from the patient to the laboratory
whenever possible. Use plastic sealable bags with a separate pouch for the laboratory
requisition orders or transport carriers to prevent contamination of the paperwork.
General guidelines for proper specimen collection.
- Collect specimen before administering antimicrobial agents when possible.
- Collect specimen with as little contamination from indigenous microflora as possible to
ensure that the sample will be representative of the infected site.
- Use sterile equipment and aseptic technique to
collect specimens to prevent introduction of microorganisms during invasive procedures.
- Collect an adequate amount of specimen. Inadequate amounts of specimen may yield
- Inform the clinical micro lab when "rule-out" requests are important. Consider geographic
location and season when notifying the laboratory of rule-out requests.
- Identify the specimen source and/or specific site correctly so that proper culture media
will be selected during processing in the laboratory.
- If a specimen is to be collected through intact skin, cleanse the skin first using 70% isopropyl alcohol
wipes or the Cepti Seal blood culture prep kit.
- Collect specimens in sturdy, sterile, screw-cap, leakproof containers with lids that are
tightened to prevent leakage.
General guidelines for proper specimen transport:
- Transport specimens to the laboratory promptly.
Refrigerate specimens at 2 to 8°C. CSF and blood cultures should not be refrigerated. Refer to specific guidelines:
- Hold blood bottles at room temperature.
- For anaerobic specimens, use E-swab transport system.
- Stool specimens
- For bacterial culture, mix stool with the transport medium in the
orange or green
topped para-pak C & S vial. Fecal specimens must be received in transport medium for
optimal detection of pathogens.
- For parasitology examination, mix stool with preservative in both vials in the collection
kit (pink &
grey topped vials).
- For detection of C. difficile submit stool in clean, sterile plastic container.
- Hold CSF specimens at room temperature (unless they are to be cultured for viruses or
- All specimens for viral culture must be refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth.
- When ordering multiple tests on one specimen, more than one container needs to be collected.
Use of specimen transport systems.
- Urine transport tube is recommended to preserve urine specimen prior to culture.
- The E-swab anaerobic transport system is used to ensure the viability of anaerobic
organisms in transit to the laboratory.
- A gram stain provides valuable, rapid clinical information. All CSF, respiratory,
sterile body fluids and wound specimens receive gram stains.
- Sterile fluids in Blood bottles: The Laboratory will accept
sterile body fluids placed in blood culture bottles. However, it is recommended
that the fluid be submitted in a sterile tube as well so a gram stain
may be performed and provide timely notification of organisms present.