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    What is microbiology?

    Picture of a male pathologist, labeling a specimen

    Microbiology is the study of disease-causing microorganisms. It is responsible for finding infectious agents in:

    • Tissue

    • Bone marrow

    • Blood

    • Urine

    • Sputum

    • Stool

    • Cerebrospinal fluid

    • Other body fluids

    The infectious agents can also be tested for sensitivity to certain antibiotics used to treat infections.

    Microbiology uses many methods to find microorganisms, such as:

    • Chemical, immunological, and genetic tests

    • Exam under a microscope

    • Staining

    Microorganisms can include:

    • Bacteria

    • Fungi

    • Parasites

    • Viruses

    Common microbiology tests



    Blood culture

    Can diagnose bacterial, fungal, or viral blood infections

    Burn, tissue, and wound culture

    Can find disease-causing organisms in many tissues

    Sputum culture or nasal swab 

    Can find bacteria that cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia

    Stool culture

    Can find parasites and bacteria that cause disease, such as salmonella or hookworms

    Urine culture

    Can find disease-causing bacteria in the kidneys and urinary tract

    Throat swab or culture

    Often used to diagnose or rule out strep throat

    The culture may find there is an infection. Then the disease-causing microbe may be tested. This is done to figure out its sensitivity to antibiotic or antimicrobial medicines. This culture and sensitivity test can help the healthcare provider find the right medicine to treat an infection.

    Cultures may take 24 to 48 hours for results. Antibiotic susceptibility studies may take another 24 to 48 hours.

    Online Medical Reviewer: Chad Haldeman-Englert MD
    Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
    Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
    Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2019
    © 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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