Detailed Swab and Collection Charts

Source Chart​

Download the pdf version of the source chart, which determines what type of culture to order and what type of swab to use for a given specimen type.

Swab Chart​

Meadville Medical Center Laboratory has the following types of specimen collection swabs. Please refer to the following chart for preferred specimen collection types.

Preferred SwabSourceComments
White /Teal Cap (plain)
Stuart’s media
Abscess or sterile body fluid Fluid is preferred in sterile screw-cap container.
Eye, ear, nasalMini-tip or gel also acceptable
MRSA for PCRPlain/teal cap only- moisten tip with sterile saline prior to collection.
Throat screen for strepGel swab unacceptable for rapid strep screen; culture only may be performed.
Wounds Aerobic culture of superficial specimen
Eye, ear, nasalMini-tip acceptable
Magenta Cap
Gel media suitable for preservation of both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria
FluidSome culture sites are unacceptable for anaerobic culture and may be rejected
WoundAnaerobic culture of deep specimens
Infant eye, ear or nasal
Orange Cap
Gel media suitable for preservation of both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria
UrethraFor culture

Special Collection​

The list below contains the specialized swabs (or collection kits) needed for the particular test ordered:

CultureSwab/Kit Needed
Acid Fast Bacillus (AFB), Tuberculosis (TB)AFB sputum collection container
Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough)Pertussis (charcoal swab) and slide for DFA
Chlamydia CultureUTM transport media - Recommendedfor abuse or rape cases.
Chlamydia and/or Gonorrhoeae (RNA detection)Gen-Probe APTIMA® kits
urine collection
Not recommended for abuse or rape cases.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae cultureG.C. plates (Jembec®) – Store refrigerated until use. Must be delivered to lab within 6 hrs of plating the organism.
PapillomavirusDigene DNA® specimen collection kit
PinwormSwube® kit or CLEAR scotch tape attached to clear slide. (Frosted tape unacceptable)
StoolStool collection kit
VaginitisBD Affirm VPIII
Viral CultureUTM transport media

Collection Information​

This chart contains more detailed information and is an aid in assisting proper entry of specimens into the Meditech system:

ProcedureAcceptable SpecimensUnacceptable SpecimensNotes
AFB Culture/stainMost specimensStoolSame as “TB” or culture for mycobacterium
Sent to reference lab
Anaerobic CultureAbscess
Bone Bank
Bone marrow
Deep wound
trans. trach.
Sterile body fluid
Urine (needle aspirate from bladder)
Superficial skin site
Urine (other than needle aspirate)
Gel-type swab is preferred.
Blood CultureAdults - 7.0 mL

Infants - minimum
0.5 mL
2 sets (set = 2 yellow-top SPS tubes) drawn same time from different sites are acceptable for most cases of suspected sepsis.
Bone Marrow Contact ACL prior to specimen collection.
Bordetella Pertussis DFA and CultureNasal /pharyngeal specimen collected on charcoal swab and slide for DFA
Catheter tip cultureCatheter tips onlyFoley cath tip
Exit sites - See “Wound Cultures”
Send tips, 1 inch long or less, in sterile container
Chlamydia CultureCervix
Other sources not approved for Gen-Probe; see “culture”
(Cotton-tipped wooden shafted collection swabs)
Use Gen-Probe Aptima® collection kits (male, female and urine). Other collection kits not acceptable.
Not suitable for sexual assault or rape (order culture).
Clostridium Difficile Antigen and ToxinStool – (2 mL. liquid stool minimum)-Swabs
-Stool in preservative
Cryptococcal AntigenSpinal fluid - 1.0 mL
Serum - 1.0 mL
Sent to reference lab
Cryptosporidium Antigen-10 gm stool in SAF transport medium
-fresh unpreserved stool
Unpreserved or unrefrigerated specimen >24 hours old
Culture for Group B Strep OnlyVaginal rectal
Plain or gel swab
Cervical not recommendedFor detection of Group B strep in pregnant women
Cyclospora cayetanesis10 gm stool in SAF vial-Stool not in SAF within 12 hrs
-Stool in PVA fixative or culture medium
Sent to ACL
Ear, Eye or Nasal CultureEar
-Gel or plain swab
-Inner ear tissue in sterile container
Specimens > 24 hours oldFor sinus specimens - Refer to Respiratory Culture
Fluid CultureAny normally sterile body fluid (synovial) or drainage from surgical areas collected in:
-Sterile screw-capped cup
-Green-top tube
-Syringe with needle removed
Fluids poured into culturette tubesSpecify unusual sites in comments.
Fluid itself is preferred over swabs.
CSF – Refer to CSF Culture
Blood – Refer to Blood Culture
Urine – Refer to Urine Culture
Fungal CultureMost sites
Skin scrapings
Dried material on slides
24 hour urine
-Preliminary report at 2 wks, or sooner if growth occurs
-Final report at 4 wks
Genital CultureCervix
Non-urogenital sourcesFor unusual sites; such as endometrium, placenta, etc., specify under comments for source “uterus”.
Giardia Antigen-10 gm stool in SAF transport medium
-fresh unpreserved stool
-Unpreserved specimen >24 hours old
-Unrefrigerated bulk stool >24 hrs
Gram StainMost specimens collected on plain swabsGel swab (impairs stain quality)
Helicobacter Pylori Screen0.5 mL serumPlasmaSent to ACL
Herpes CultureCollect using viral kit
Dermal sites
Urogenital sources
Sent to ACL
Plain swab is also acceptable if received within 2 hrs of collection.
Identification, MicroscopicSpecimens in leak-proof containerNon-secure containerTicks – see Pathology
India ink prepSpinal fluidTest performed by Micro tech only
M-F from 6 AM - 4 PM
S-S from 6 AM-2:30 PM
Influenza antigen Types A or BNasal wash (preferred)
NP aspirate or swab
Frozen specimen
KOH PrepCervix
Finger or toenails
Skin scrapings
Test performed by Micro tech only
M-F from 6 AM - 4 PM
S-S from 6 AM-2:30 PM
Legionella CultureBiopsy specimen
Bronchial secretions
Swab specimen not from lower respiratory tractSent to ACL
Legionella Smear/TissueBiopsy specimen
Bronchial secretions
Specimen on glass slide
Swab specimen not from lower respiratory tractSent to ACL
Lyme diseaseSerum
Synovial fluid
Sent to ACL
Neisseria Gonorrhoeae CultureBody fluids
Urogenital sources
(Cotton-tipped wooden shafted swabs)
Do not refrigerate - swabs not plated on Jembec® must be received in lab within 2 hours of collection.
N. Gonorrhoeae RNA ProbeUse Gen-Probe APTIMA® collection kit.
Other collection kits are not acceptable.
-All other sources not acceptable
Not suitable for sexual assault or rape (order culture).
Ova and ParasitesStool - minimum amount is pea-size portion in leak-proof containerRectal swabsSent to ACL
Must include medical or travel history
Pinworm ExamSwube® tube
Clear tape on glass slide
Frosted tapeFrosted tape cannot be examined under the microscope.
Respiratory CultureBronchoscopy
Dental (surgical)
trans. trach.
Tonsils/ Peritonsillar
Specimens contaminated with oral flora
Respiratory Syncytial Virus AntigenNasal wash
NP swab
All other specimensFor RSV culture see chart Viral Culture
RotavirusStool (minimum 5 mL)-Specimen >12 hr old
-Stool in preservative
Sputum CultureMouth
Tracheal secretions
-Specimen collected in Kleenex
-Specimens not in sterile container
Specimen containing excess oral contamination is rejected.
Stool CultureColonoscopy material
2 rectal swabs with evident fecal material
Specimens not in screw-capped container such as:
Toilet paper
Test not performed on patients hospitalized >3 days
Stool Culture for VRE onlyStool
Rectal swab Urine
For detection of colonization with VRE
Throat (Strep A screen)Plain swab preferredGel swabThroat culture is performed if strep screen is negative.
Throat (no screen)Plain or gel swabStrep screen is not performed.
Tissue CultureTissue
Biopsy material
Dried specimens
Urine CultureUrine collected
using sterile
24 hour urine
Catheter bags
specimens greater
than 2 hours old
Notify lab promptly when adding culture to a previously collected specimen.
Viral CultureUse viral collection kit:
Biopsy Rectal
Blood Spinal Fluid
Eye Sputum
Fluid Throat
Nasal Urine
Sent to ACL
-Plain swab acceptable if received within 2 hours of collection.
-Place plain swab in UTM media within 2 hours of collection and is acceptable if received within 24 hours of collection.
Wound CultureMost body sites including catheter exit sitesMaterial dried on slidesPlain or gel swab are acceptable.
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