Cultures and Sensitivity Tests

Also: Sensitivity Tests

Infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria or microscopic parasitic organisms.  In evaluating an infection, it is sometimes necessary to determine exactly what type of organism is responsible.  A test called a culture can provide that information.

A culture may be indicated in the following situations:

  1. An infection which may be life threatening, such as meningitis or cellulitis
  2. Ear or urine infections which are not improving despite antibiotic drugs
  3. Persistent diarrhea

In performing a culture, we collect a sample of blood, urine, spinal fluid, stool or discharge from your child.  This material is then incubated in a nutrient mixture.  Over the following days, the offending pathogen will multiply, forming a colony of identical organisms.  By inspecting these organisms under the microscope, we can usually determine their exact identity.  Accordingly, an appropriate treatment can be planned.

Sensitivity Tests

Once a bacterial pathogen has been identified, additional information can be obtained by testing that bacteria’s sensitivity to a variety of antibiotics.  This information is particularly helpful when an infection is particularly aggressive and/or unresponsive to standard antibiotic therapy.