Stool Culture

Stool Culture Detects and Identifies Pathogenic Bacteria

Your doctor may order a stool culture if you have prolonged diarrhea or blood or mucous in your stool. The culture will determine if your symptoms are the result of pathogenic bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract and, if so, identify which type of bacteria.

How to Prepare

For this test, you will need to collect a stool specimen. Before you can do this, you will need to contact the lab to obtain the appropriate collection kit, which includes a cotton-tipped swab and a small vial of a nutrient solution to transport the specimen in.

  • Defecate into a clean, dry plastic container. It is important that the stool specimen not be contaminated with water or urine.
  • Using the swab, select a bloody, mucoid or unformed part of the stool and gently collect enough to lightly cover the cotton tip.
  • Immerse the swab in the nutrient solution, breaking off the shaft and leaving the broken tip in the vial.
  • Cap the vial and write your name on the side of it. Refrigerate the specimen until you’re ready to take it to the lab.
  • Be sure you take the specimen to the lab as soon as possible. If the specimen is more than 24 hours old you will have to collect another one.

Time Required

Your time at the lab will be limited to the amount of time it takes to sign in, register with admitting and leave your specimen. Results from the culture are typically sent to your doctor within days; be assured, however, that any critical results are communicated immediately. Your doctor will discuss the results with you once he or she has reviewed them.


Michigan law requires that a valid order signed by an authorized person be presented before any laboratory test or procedure can be conducted. Authorized persons are defined as physicians, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. These professionals are legally responsible for interpreting the results of tests based on their knowledge of the individual patient.

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