Bacteria culture test; Types and result interpretations

bacterial culture test

What is a bacteria culture test and what are its different types, what precautions must be taken before conducting it, and what are the interpretations of the results?

Bacteria culture test is a test used to determine if you have a bacterial infection. It can be done on blood, stool, urine, skin, mucus, or spinal fluid sample. this test checks to see what kind of germs such as bacteria causes a certain infection, and the most effective treatment.

What is a Bacteria Culture Test?

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that have a wide range of forms. They can be found almost anywhere in your body and on your skin. Some bacteria are harmless or even beneficial. Others are capable of causing infections and disease.

A bacterial culture is a laboratory test involves the detection of potentially harmful bacteria in or on your body that may be causing you to become ill. To perform the test, you must provide a sample of your blood, urine, skin, or other tissue. The type of sample is determined by where the infection appears to be located.

A medical professional will need to investigate a large number of bacteria cells to determine what type of bacteria you may have. As a result, your sample will be sent to a lab where the bacteria cells will be grown.
Typically, test results are available within a few days. However, because some bacteria grow slowly, your results may take several days or longer.

Types of bacteria culture test

A bacteria culture test is used to aid in the diagnosis of certain infections. The most common types of bacteria tests, as well as their applications, are listed below.

1- Urine Culture

  • Used to identify the bacteria causing a urinary tract infection and to diagnose it.
  • Test procedure:
    • Your healthcare provider will ask you to deliver a sterile urine sample in a cup.

2- Stool Culture

Feces is another word for stool.

  • Used to detect infections in the digestive system caused by bacteria or parasites. Food poisoning and other digestive illnesses are examples of these.
  • Test procedure:
    • As directed by your healthcare provider, you will provide a sample of your feces in a clean container.

3- Blood Culture test

  • Blood culture is a test used to detect the presence of bacteria fungi in the blood.
  • Test procedure:
    • A blood sample will be required by a medical professional.
    • The sample is usually drawn from a vein in your arm, in a test tube.

4- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culture

  • A CSF culture testing examines a sample of the fluid that surrounds and protects the spine.
  • Test procedure:
    • A healthcare provider inserts a needle between two vertebrae in your spine. This is known as a spinal tap (lumbar puncture).

5- Sputum Culture

Sputum is a thick mucus produced by the lungs that are coughed up. It is not the same as spit or saliva.

  • Used to aid in the diagnosis of bacterial infections of the respiratory tract. Bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis are two examples.
  • Test procedure:
    • Your provider may instruct you to cough up sputum into a special cup, or a special swab may be used to collect a sample from your nose.

6- Throat Culture

  •  Used to diagnose or rule out strep throat
  • Test procedure:
    • Your doctor will insert a special swab into your mouth to collect a sample from the back of your throat and tonsils.

7- Wound Culture

  • Detects infections in open wounds or burn injuries.
  • Test procedure:
    • Your doctor will take a sample from the site of your wound with a special swab.

How to prepare for a bacterial culture test?

Bacterial culture tests come in a variety of types. Inquire with your provider if there is anything you need to do to prepare for your exam.

In general Inform your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including prescriptions and dietary supplements. They may ask that you discontinue taking certain medications that may have an impact on the culture results.

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Time required for bacterial culture test results

During the bacteria culture test, the sample is delivered to the lab, they apply specific techniques to induce the cells to multiply and grow. This gives enough bacterial cells for experts to examine below a microscope or test for specific chemical reactions, such as antibiotic susceptibility. Depending on the type of bacteria, the process takes one to five days.

If there are enough bacteria in the sample, the lab confirms an infection. The laboratory will inform the healthcare provider of the type(s) of bacteria discovered.

Result interpretations

If the culture is positive that means harmful bacteria are discovered in your sample, it is usually indicative of a bacterial infection. More tests may be ordered by your provider to confirm the diagnosis or to determine the severity of the infection.

The lab may perform culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST), also named bacterial culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing, to determine which treatment plan would be most effective against the infection type you have. Because certain antibiotics are more effective against specific bacteria, your provider may decide that a different antibiotic would be more effective than the one initially prescribed after receiving these results.

If your bacterial culture test results show that you do not have a bacterial infection, you should not take antibiotics. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them will not make you feel better and may contribute to the serious problem known as antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic sensitivity testing?

Bacteria culture test
Bacteria culture test

Culture and sensitivity testing are mostly performed together, to identify which antibiotics inhibit the growth of cultured bacteria. This information enables the selection of the best antibiotic for a specific infection. The purpose of antibiotic susceptibility testing is to determine:

  • The efficacy of specific antibiotics against specific bacteria
  • The bacteria’s resistance to specific antibiotics.
  • Identifying patterns of bacterial antibiotic resistance.

Related tests

  • Antibiotic Sensitivity Test
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis
  • Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) Tests
  • Coagulase test
  • Catalase test.
  • Complete blood count
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Procalcitonin
  • Serology
  • Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) test

The bacteria culture test with antibiotic sensitivity testing is regarded as a standard and quick laboratory test that aids in treatment decision-making.

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