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Genital Specimens for Culture (Bacteriology, Wythenshawe Campus)

General information

Collection container (including preservatives): CE marked leak proof container

Specimen type: High vaginal swab (HVS), vaginal discharge, vulval swab, labial swab, cervical swab, endocervical swab, penile swab, urethral swab, genital ulcer swab, semen, screening swabs for N. gonorrhoeae, aspirates from bartholin's gland, fallopian tube, tubo-ovarian abscess, pouch of Douglas fluid, intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUCD), products of conception.

High Vaginal swabs (HVS) are not suitable for the isolation of N. gonorrhoeae, Endocervical swabs should be submitted.


culture B

Genital/throat Swab

Urethral Swab

Urethal swab


Collection: Use aseptic technique. Collect specimens in appropriate CE marked leak proof containers and transport in sealed plastic bags. Collect swabs into appropriate transport medium and transport in sealed plastic bags.

  • Genital tract swabs - Cervical and high vaginal swabs should be taken with the aid of a speculum. It is important to avoid vulval contamination of the swab. For Trichomonas, the posterior fornix, including any obvious candidal plaques should be swabbed. If pelvic infection, including gonorrhoea, is suspected, the cervical os should be swabbed. For the specific diagnosis of BV, it is recommended that an air-dried smear of vaginal discharge is sent in addition to the swab. Separate samples should be collected into appropriate transport media for detection of viruses or C. trachomatis.
  • High vaginal swabs - After the introduction of the speculum, the swab should be rolled firmly over the surface of the vaginal vault. The swab should then be placed in Amies transport medium with charcoal.
  • Cervical swabs - After introduction of the speculum to the vagina, the swab should be rotated inside the endocervix. The swab should then be placed in Amies transport medium with charcoal.
  • Urethral swabs - Contamination with micro-organisms from the vulva or the foreskin should be avoided. Thin swabs are available for collection of specimens. The patient should not have passed urine for at least one hour. For males, if a discharge is not apparent, attempts should be made to "milk" exudate from the penis. The swab is gently passed through the urethral meatus and rotated. Place the thin swab in Amies transport medium with charcoal.
  • Intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCDs) - The entire device should be sent.
  • Rectal swabs - Rectal swabs are taken via a proctoscope.
  • Throat swabs - Throat swabs should be taken from the tonsillar area and/or posterior pharynx avoiding the tongue and uvula.
  • Fluids and pus - These are taken from the fallopian tubes, tubo-ovarian and Bartholin's abscesses, etc… during surgery.

Specimen transport: Specimens should be transported and processed as soon as possible.

Minimum volume of sample: Fluids and pus - preferably a minimum volume of 1mL.

Special precautions: Endocervical swabs for gonorrhoea investigation should not be refrigerated

Laboratory information

Measurement units: Not applicable

Biological reference units: Not applicable

Turn round time for provisional result (working days): 30 -60 mins for microscopy
1 day for culture

Turn round time to final result (working days): 2-3 days

Clinical information

Clinical decision points: Not applicable

Factors known to significantly affect the results: HVS swabs for gonorrhoea investigation should not be refrigerated as this significantly reduces the recovery rate


(Last reviewed October 24th 2017)