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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Culture of genital samples

Genital specimens from males and females are cultured in the laboratory to aid in the diagnosis of genital and sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Female samples are also examined by microscopy for evidence of bacterial vaginosis and Thrichomonas vaginalis.

Specimen requirements

Samples should be transported to the laboratory as soon as possible. If specimen transport will be delayed, e.g. from primary care, specimens should be stored in a refrigerator until transported to the laboratory.

Swabs should be sent in Amies transport medium for testing and should be transported and examined as soon as possible.

Semen should be sent in a sterile plastic container. Cervical and urethral swabs are the investigation of choice for gonorrhoea culture.

Laboratory turnaround time

The turnaround time for these tests is up to three days from receipt.

Focused testing

A simplified workup has been introduced which means that a majority of the genital samples received in the laboratory from women undergo culture for Candida only.

Genital samples from men, children under 15 years of age and women with symptoms other than just discharge are tested using an extended method which includes prolonged incubation for anaerobes and Gonorrhoea.

Guidance on when and what to send to the laboratory is produced by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG):

Laboratory method

Non-selective and selective media are used to isolate pathogenic bacteria and fungi from normal flora.

A simple work-up cultures HVS/LVS samples for Candida only. At the end of the 'Laboratory method' section add: Trichomonas vaginalis is tested for as part of the 'Triple Test' in conjunction with Neisseria gonorrhoea and Chlamydia using the BD Viper™.

Extended work-up requires culture for a more extensive range of pathogens including:

  • Gonorrhoea
  • Beta-haemolytic Streptococci
  • Pathogenic Staphylococci
  • Listeria
  • Anaerobes.

Where to find results of these tests

  • All results are returned electronically where possible (EPR, SunquestICE).
  • Some results may be phoned to clinicians and GPs.
  • Results are never given directly to patients by the laboratory staff.

Further information and contact details

For further information please email:

Confidential patient information should only be sent from accounts.