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CSF – Microscopy and Culture



Analysis of CSF for bacterial infection:

  • Microscopy – cell count (& gram stain if needed)
  • Culture


Diagnosis of meningitis / encephalitis


Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

Specimen container

Sterile white top universal pot

Special Instructions

Please send first and third specimens to Microbiology (Clearly label each container)

Transport to the laboratory

Specimens where possible should be taken prior to commencement of antibiotic therapy, and should reach microbiology within 2 hours. Do not refrigerate specimen until after microscopy and bacterial culture have been performed.

If you are taking an urgent CSF out of hours – please call a porter for immediate transport to the old pathology building and contact the On Call Microbiology Biomedical Scientist through the hospital switchboard for urgent microscopy.

Samples taken after 4am will be processed at 8am if labelled “urgent”, and need not be telephoned.


Locally at RD&E

Turnaround Time

Microscopy 24hrs

Culture 48hrs (Negative result)

Urgent Specimen Instructions

Please phone the laboratory if urgent microscopy results are required (except between 4am and 8am).

Useful Links


CSF Analysis – Lab Tests Online

Meningitis and Encephalitis – Lab Tests Online

Meningitis – NHS

Encephalitis – NHS

Specimen Labelling Procedure
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UKAS Medical logo


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