Blog Search

Monday, 17 April 2017 10:52

An unseen step to diagnoses: specimen handling

Written by 

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.

Specimen Collection Cover

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.


A Guide to Specimen Management in Clinical Microbiology. J. Michael Miller and Shelley A. Miller, Eds.


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:

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:

Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 16:28

1 comment

  • Comment Link Jennifer C Friday, 21 April 2017 09:11 posted by Jennifer C

    I agree that specimen handling is a very important part of the diagnostic process. Having been a medical transcriptionist for many years, I have done many notes where specimen contamination occurred and some had to be redone. In redoing these specimens, diagnosis and treatment can be delayed. This is a vital part of the diagnoses process. If it is done wrong, it is both time consuming and expensive, not to mention harm to patient's health, as it could delay treatment.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.