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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 infection (not STI).

Bacterial vaginosis is not tested in the laboratory but should be diagnosed clinically.

Trichomonas vaginalis is tested for as part of the 'Triple Test' in conjunction with Neisseria gonorrhoea and Chlamydia using the BD Viperâ„¢.

See also: Screening for sexually transmitted infection (STI)

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 liquid transwab (purple top) medium for testing and should be transported and examined as soon as possible.

Semen should be sent in a sterile plastic container.

Laboratory turnaround time

Please see Turnaround times

Focused testing

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

Investigation and Management of Vaginal Discharge in Adult Women (pdf, 662 KB)

Laboratory method

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

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

  • 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.

Microbiology Laboratory Users Manual (pdf, 684 KB)

Last reviewed:30 June 2022