This test is used to screen the stool for the presence of culturable pathogenic bacteria. It aids in the diagnosis of any kind of bacterial infection of the gut or GI tract. This test is carried out in combination with other tests including ova and parasite exam and GI pathogen panel to identify the presence of a parasitic or viral infection. The common bacteria that are screened and cultured using this technique include species of E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter. The symptoms that lead to the recommendation of this test include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.
Of note, if a person is healthy and has a strong immune system, the symptoms will usually resolve on its own. However, if the symptoms do not go away, then he needs to have this procedure so a proper diagnosis may be made.
If a child, an elderly individual, or someone with weak immune system presents with GI symptoms, then a stool culture and sensitivity test will benefit them since this could provide a more accurate diagnosis, and proper treatment can be given as soon as possible. It’s important to get proper medication to prevent further complications like dehydration, toxic megacolon, bacteremia or septicemia, reactive arthritis, and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called GBS) if the individual has Campylobacter infection.
How to Prepare for a Stool Culture Test
No fasting is required for this type of test, but you will need to collect a sample of your stool for testing. When collecting a stool sample, see to it that the container is clean and that the specimen has not been contaminated by any water, urine, tissue paper, etc.
Once you have the specimen, send it to the lab clinic within a couple of hours. Once in the lab, they will analyze the type of bacteria that grows from it. A stool culture and sensitivity test may also be done not only to get more accurate results but to also identify the antibiotic the organism or bacteria is most sensitive to.
What the Results Mean
It’s easy to understand the result of the stool culture test. It will either say that it’s positive for pathogenic bacteria and then cite the type of bacterial infection, or it will say there’s negative pathogenic infection.
If the result came back negative, you have the option of having another stool culture test especially if the symptoms of GI infection persist. However, if the test came back positive, then you will be placed on a course of antibiotic treatment to get rid of the infection, after which you need to get a repeat stool culture test to make sure that the infection is gone.
GI upset can be caused by a lot of factors such as food that wasn’t prepared or cooked properly, contaminated drinking water, or recent trip or vacation out of the country. Any of these may be the cause of your positive stool culture test.
Common Stool Culture Test Questions
Are bacterial infections of the digestive tract avoidable? How?
Yes, it is avoidable; and yes, you can get re-infected if you’re not careful enough. To avoid another GI infection, make sure that the food you eat has been cooked well and has never been contaminated. See to it, too, that the water you’re drinking is clean. If you’re going to travel to another country, drink only from bottled water and avoid eating from unsanitary places like street food vendors.
Can over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications help if what I have is the infectious type? Why?
No. It could help with the diarrhea, but you’re only allowing the pathogenic organisms to stay longer in your gastrointestinal tract, which could lead to complications.
What are other possible causes for diarrhea?
Diarrhea can also be caused by a virus, a parasite, a gastrointestinal disease or disorder, or medications.
LabEspy recommends Personalabs, Walk-In Lab, U.S. Bio-Chem for this test.