Stool contains bacteria from the normal flora of the digestive tract. Finding bacteria in stool samples is therefore expected. Certain bacterial strains however cause infections that give rise to symptoms of varying intensity, such as diarrhea. Stool cultures help identify the bacteria responsible and effectively treat the infection.
In addition to identifying bacteria, stool cultures are used to identify infection-causing parasites and protozoa.
What is the purpose of this test?
This test is prescribed to patients whose symptoms seem to be caused by an intestinal infection. By determining the agent responsible, the diagnosis can be confirmed and appropriate treatment can be initiated.
- To prepare the sample, place stool on a clean, dry surface such as a bedpan, for example.
- Place a small amount of fecal material in a clean, sterile container. It is important to add a sample of blood or mucus if present.
- Be careful not to contaminate the stool with urine.
- The total amount of stool in the container should be about the size of a nut.
- Properly label the container if required.
- Unless otherwise indicated, the use of laxatives, enemas and antibiotics is forbidden for 7 days leading up to the sample-taking.
- Wash hands before and after.
- The sample must be refrigerated and processed by the laboratory within two hours of having been collected.
Caregivers will help collect samples from bedridden patients. It is recommended that they comply with the following instructions:
- Wear gloves for the entire procedure.
- Ensure that patients defecate in a clean bedpan.
- Collect a few stool samples using a spatula.
If testing for viruses, specific procedures apply. Please refer to your specimen collection centre.
What does an abnormal result mean?
An abnormal result means that an infection-causing strain has been identified.
Certain factors may influence test results, including:
- Delays in getting the sample to the laboratory, etc.
- Having been on antibiotic therapy in the last few days
- Having contaminated the sample with urine or toilet paper
- Having had a barium enema in the last few days
- Having taken mineral oil, etc.
What to know before going for this test
Before going for a blood test, examination or other, it is always a good idea for you to have a complete list of all prescription or over the counter medications and/or natural products you may be taking. If you are unsure or have any questions, your pharmacist will be able provide you with additional information.
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.