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Cerebrospinal Fluid (Microscopy Culture & Sensitivity)

Alias: CSF, Meningitis

Discipline: Clinical Microbiology

Test information: The detection and recovery of the causative bacterial and fungal organisms of meningitis.

Availability: Available locally during routine hours: 08:45 - 21:00.
Available out of hours on telephone request.

Turnaround Time: 1 hour (Microscopy)
48 hours (Culture)

Related Tests: Cerebrospinal Fluid (Viral Meningitis PCR)

Specimen Type(s)
  • Cerebrospinal fluid;
Other Acceptable Specimen Type(s)
Specimen Container - Adult
  • Sterile CE-marked Universal Container;
Specimen Container - Paediatric
  • Sterile CE-marked Universal Container;
  • Microscopy Culture & Sensitivity;
Part of a test profile?
Volume (min) of sample to be sent to laboratory
Patient Preparation, Sample Handling and Transport
  • It is preferable for the specimen to be collected before antimicrobial therapy is started, but this must not be delayed unnecessarily pending lumbar puncture.
  • The third sample is preferred for microbiology investigations.
  • Specimens should be sent to the laboratory without delay to allow investigation within a maximum of 2 hours.
  • Do not refrigerate CSF as cells disintegrate and a transport delay may produce a cell count that does not reflect the clinical situation of the patient.
  • If subarachnoid haemorrhage is suspected, send the first and third samples (clearly labelled) so that differential red cell counts may be attempted.
Maximum add on time
Units and Reference Ranges / Interpretation
  • Neonates (< 4 weeks old): 0-30 cells x 106/L
  • Children (4 weeks - 4 years old): 0-20 cells x 106/L
  • Children (5 years old - puberty): 0-10 cells x 106/L
  • Adults: 0-5 cells x 106/L


  • New-born: 0-675 cells x 106/L
  • Adults: 0-10 cells x 106/L
UKAS number
UKAS accredited test?
Please indicate if cryptococcal investigation is required.

Susceptibility Testing: Each susceptibility category is defined by breakpoints specific for each species and agent. The breakpoints are minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) and describe the amount of agent required to inhibit the growth of the organism.

The definitions of (S),(I), and (R) emphasize the close relationship between the susceptibility of the organism and the exposure of the organism at the site of infection.

Susceptible (S): High likelihood of therapeutic success with standard dosing.
Susceptible Increased Exposure (I): High likelihood of therapeutic success with increased dosing.
Resistant (R): High likelihood of therapeutic failure.

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If you have any queries about a test or results interpretation please contact us.

Last updated: 01-06-2023