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Microbiology

Microbiology

What is microbiology?

Picture of a male pathologist, labeling a specimen

Microbiology is the study of disease-causing microorganisms. Microbiology is responsible for identifying infectious agents in tissue, bone marrow, blood, urine, sputum, feces, cerebrospinal fluid, and other body fluids. The infectious agents can also be tested for sensitivity to certain antibiotics used to treat infections.

Microbiology uses various techniques to identify microorganisms, including the following:

  • Chemical, immunological, and genetic tests

  • Examination under a microscope

  • Staining

Microorganisms can include the following:

  • Bacteria

  • Fungi

  • Parasites

  • Viruses

Common microbiology tests

Tests

Uses

Blood culture

Can diagnose bacterial, fungal, or viral infections of the blood

Burn, tissue, and wound culture

Can identify disease-causing organisms in various tissues

Sputum culture and/or nasal swab 

Can identify bacteria that cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia

Stool culture

Can identify parasites and bacteria  that cause disease, such as salmonella or hookworms

Urine culture

Can identify disease-causing bacteria in the kidneys and urinary tract

Throat swab and/or culture

Often used to diagnose or rule out strep throat

 

If the culture identifies an infection, the disease-causing microbe may be tested to determine its sensitivity to antibiotic or antimicrobial drugs. This culture and sensitivity test can help the doctor identify an appropriate medication to treat an infection.

Cultures may take 24 hours to 48 hours for results. Antibiotic susceptibility studies may take another 24 hours to 48 hours.

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