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Mycobacterial culture

Mycobacterial culture is a test to look for the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and similar infections.

See also: Sputum stain for mycobacteria

How is the Test Performed?

A sample of body fluid or tissue is needed. This may be taken from the lungs, liver, or bone marrow.

Most often, you will be asked to cough deeply and spit out the material that comes up from your lungs, called sputum.

A biopsy or aspiration may also be done.

The sample is placed in a special laboratory dish (culture media) and watched to see if the bacteria that causes TB grows.

Preparation for the Test

The preparation depends on how the test is done.

For details, see:

How will the Test Feel?

How the test will feel depends on the specific procedure.

For details, see:

Why is the Test Performed?

Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of tuberculosis or a related infection.

Normal Results for Mycobacterial culture

If there is no disease present, there will be no growth of bacteria in the culture medium.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Mycobacterium tuberculosis or similar bacteria is present in the culture.

Mycobacterial culture Risks

Risks depend on the specific biopsy or aspiration being performed. There are no risks associated with the culture itself.

References

Iseman MD. Tuberculosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 345.

Ellner JJ.Tuberculosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 332.

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Review Date: 12/6/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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