Microbiology Background Information

The laboratory staff will phone positive blood culture results, CSF results, and all other results requiring immediate attention. Results should always be checked on Lorenzo or your GP browser before telephoning laboratory.

The quality of microbiological specimens may deteriorate rapidly after taking the sample due to the deaths of delicate organisms or the over-growth of contaminants. All specimens should reach the laboratory as soon as possible. If for any reason, a specimen cannot reach the laboratory on the day it is taken; it should be kept overnight in a refrigerator apart from blood cultures which should be kept at room temperature. All swabs should be sent in bacteriological transport medium. The laboratory staff are always available to help with problems that may arise.

A request card with full patient details, including date of birth, hospital number / NHS number and relevant clinical information including type of specimen and site of collection must accompany each specimen.

It is important that a separate request card is used for each specimen. Details of antibiotic therapy proposed or commenced, the date and time of collection must also be clearly stated. Remember that we can only respond appropriately to what we are told and the information provided may influence the range of tests to be set up. Whenever possible use Lorenzo.

It is important that every effort is made to obtain suitable specimens for examination before the commencement of antimicrobial therapy. Specimens should not be stored for more than 20 hours and should be handed in to the laboratory or to a recognised collecting centre to reach the laboratory with a minimum of delay. It is not desirable to send specimens for culture through the post; when this is done the postal regulations for pathological specimens must be observed.

After 4.00pm, on weekends and bank holidays, urgent CSF samples for suspected meningitis can be examined by contacting the Biomedical Scientist on call.

Clinical advice from a consultant is available during normal laboratory hours. It is expected that the case will have been discussed with a more senior member of the team and all the necessary facts are to hand. Out of hours advice may have to be given without access to laboratory results.

Before seeking clinical advice outside normal hours the clinician should first consult the frequently asked questions section and / or the antibiotic guidelines or the sepsis protocol on the Clinical Guidelines / Infection Control intranet sites.

Time limits for additional tests

Please contact the laboratory as soon as possible if additional tests are required, many samples cannot be retested after 48 hours.

Reference laboratories

Some tests are sent to reference laboratories, information on their location and repertoire can be obtained on this site.