Beautifully stained histopathology stains, sleek high-throughput robots, exciting visuals from biochemical tests – there are some very glamourous visuals that are associated with clinical microbiology analyses. But while sample analysis is vital to successfully diagnosing patients, this is only one part in the diagnostic testing process (see figure, left). Just as important to the testing process are the patient sample collection, transportation, and storage steps. Handling patient isolates may not associated with one of the high-glamour analysis steps, but this process is absolutely critical to the diagnostic outcome.
A newly published book from ASM Press highlights the role of specimens in clinical diagnoses. The book features not only the important protocols for specimen collection and storage for many types of infections, but also areas of general importance to specimen collection in general. Understanding the contribution of specimen collection, transportation, and storage to the final diagnosis are important for both clinical microbiologists that interpret the specimens and the healthcare workers who often make the actual collection. You can enjoy a free preview of the first section, emphasizing the basic issues common to all specimen collecting, here.
Do you want to see examples of proper specimen collecting technique? Dr. J Michael Miller, one of the book’s authors, offers a series of free instructional videos that you can access here.
Determining best-practice guidelines for specimen collecting, such as those outlined in the textbook, requires rigorous testing of protocol variations. Analyses and meta-analyses, such as this previously discussed urine specimen collection analysis, play a role in generating standard protocols to ensure the best patient care. Additional studies covering this important topic include some of the follow reports:
- Comparison of ESwab and Wound Fiber Swab Specimen Collection Devices for Use with Xpert SA Nasal Complete Assay. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2016.
- Cost-Effectiveness of 30- Compared to 20-Milliliter Blood Cultures: A Retrospective Study. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2015.
- Effects of Frozen Storage on Detection of Intermediate Vancomycin Susceptibility and Heteroresistance in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Blood Isolates. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2015.
- Rectal Swabs are Suitable for Quantifying the Carriage Load of KPC-Producing Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2013.
Proper specimen handling in resource-limited regions requires studies to maximize specimen protection and personnel safety. A number of reports discuss optimized sample handling in resource-limited settings:
- Management of Microbiological Samples in a Confirmed Case of Ebola Virus Disease: Constraints and Limitations. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2015.