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Genital Swab (Microscopy & Culture)

Alias: N/A

Discipline: Clinical Microbiology

Test information: The detection and recovery of the causative bacterial, fungal and parasitic organisms associated with genital infection. Where applicable to determine antimicrobial susceptibility results.

Availability: Available locally during routine hours: 08:45 - 17:15.

Turnaround Time: 24 - 48 hours (Microscopy)
48 hours (Culture Preliminary)
72 hours (Culture Final)

Related Tests:

Specimen Type(s)
  • Anal Swab;
  • Bartholin's Gland Aspirate;
  • Cervical Swab;
  • Endo-cervical Swab;
  • Fallopian Tube Aspirate;
  • Genital Swab;
  • Genital Ulcer Swab;
  • High Vaginal Swab;
  • Intra-Uterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD);
  • Labial Swab;
  • Meatus Swab;
  • Penile Swab;
  • Placental Swab;
  • Pouch of Douglas Fluid;
  • Products of contraception / termination of pregnancy;
  • Semen;
  • Tubo-ovarian Abscess Aspirate;
  • Urethral Swab;
  • Vaginal Swab;
  • Vulval Swab;
Other Acceptable Specimen Type(s)
Specimen Container - Adult
  • Sterile CE-marked Charcoal swab in Transport medium;
  • Sterile CE-marked Universal Container;
  • Trichomonas Broth Medium;
Specimen Container - Paediatric
  • N/A;
  • Microscopy Culture & Sensitivity;
Part of a test profile?
Volume (min) of sample to be sent to laboratory
1 mL
Patient Preparation, Sample Handling and Transport
  • Sample before antimicrobial therapy where possible.
  • Cervical and high vaginal swabs should be taken with the aid of a speculum.
  • A urethral swab should avoid contamination with micro-organisms from the vulva or the foreskin. Thin swabs may be used for collection of specimen.
  • For the specific diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis, it is recommended that an air-dried smear of vaginal discharge is submitted.
  • For Trichomonas, the posterior fornix, including any obvious candidal plaques should be swabbed (broth medium is available from the laboratory).
  • Specimens should be transported to the laboratory without delay during normal working hours.
  • If transport is delayed store at 2-8 °C.
  • The swab must arrive in the laboratory within 48 hours of being taken (or within 24 hours for Neisseria gonorrhoea investigation).
Maximum add on time
Units and Reference Ranges / Interpretation

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.

UKAS number
UKAS accredited test?

High vaginal swabs are unsuitable for gonorrhoea diagnosis and PID investigations. The use of a PCR assay is more sensitive for Chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing and less restricted by specimen transport times - please refer to relevant page in virology section for testing requirements.

Yeast identification and sensitivity will be performed if failed treatment or recurrent thrush is clearly indicated.

Separate samples should be collected for detection of viruses using Universal Transport Medium or UTM. If Herpes simplex infection is suspected send an additional swab in UTM from the lesion.

The presence of an IUCD may be associated with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) or salpingitis. IUCDs will only be examined if accompanied by relevant clinical details e.g. PID, fever, leucocytosis, dyspareunia, intra-menstrual bleeding and chronic pelvic pain.

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

Last updated: 01-06-2023