Swab sampling tips

When choosing a sample to submit for testing, it is important to remember that tissues, fluids, aspirates or fecal material are always preferable to swabs. Submit swabs only if no other sample options are available or when sampling mucosal surfaces.

Rayon or dacron swabs with plastic shafts are preferred. Flocked swabs pick up more sample and are designed to release more of the sample during processing. Cotton swabs contain fatty acids that may be toxic to certain bacteria and should be avoided if possible.

Swabs always should be sent in an appropriate transport media. Swabs for viral testing (PCR, FA) should be sent in universal transport media or in sterile redtop tube (no gel) with sufficient sterile saline to maintain moisture (approximately 1 milliliter). Swabs for culture should be submitted in bacterial transport (Amies or Stuart’s for aerobic culture, anaerobic StarSwabs for anaerobes).

If bacterial culture and viral testing are requested, please submit two sets of swabs in the appropriate transport media. Refrigerate swabs for viral testing or bacterial culture; if anaerobic culture is desired, maintain the anaerobic transport at room temperature.