Dedicated to protecting the health and safety
of Nebraskans through diagnostic laboratory
science, technology, and education.

The proper collection of a specimen for culture is the most important step in the recovery of pathogenic organisms responsible for infectious disease. A poorly collected specimen may lead to failure in isolating the causative organism(s) and result in the recovery and subsequent treatment of contaminating organisms.

Basic Concepts for Collection

  • Collect the specimen from the actual site of infection, avoiding contamination from adjacent tissues or secretions.
  • Collect the specimen at optimal times (for example, early morning sputum for AFB culture).
  • Collect a sufficient quantity of material.
  • Use appropriate collection devices: sterile, leak-proof specimen containers.
  • Use appropriate transport media.
  • Whenever possible, collect specimens prior to administration of antibiotic or antiviral medication.
  • Properly label the specimen and complete the test request form/process. The source of specimen is required.
  • Minimize transport time. Maintain an appropriate environment between collection of specimens and delivery to the laboratory. (If special transport media is required please make sure this obtained prior to specimen collection)
  • If appropriate, decontaminate the skin surface prior to collecting specimen.

If you have questions about proper specimen collection, please call

NPHL Client Services at 402-559-2440 or toll free at 1-866-290-1406.