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February 12, 1982

Making Optimum Use of the Microbiology Laboratory: I. Use of the Laboratory

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Microbiology, Department of Pathology, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn.

JAMA. 1982;247(6):857-859. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320310093049

UNIQUE pitfalls may be encountered by the physician in making optimum use of the microbiology laboratory. A request for a "culture" is nonspecific compared with a request for a blood glucose determination. The request for a culture is an implied request to search for "anything in the specimen that could contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of an infectious disease." Physicians usually do not know exactly how this request will be construed by laboratory personnel. What would happen if blood were submitted to the chemistry laboratory with a comparable request for "chemical abnormalities" that might suggest the presence of disease? What microorganisms will the laboratory seek in a specimen submitted for "culture"? Will a Gram-stained direct smear be performed, and if so, will the results of this examination be reported? The request for culture usually leads to a search for bacteria that would commonly be expected at the site represented.