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Ear Swab Culture


Specimens may not be processed if there is a lack of clinical details. Please consider if samples are clinically required and would change management. 


Culture of Ear swabs for the isolation and identification of Bacterial & Fungal Pathogens.

Antimicrobial sensitivity testing is performed as appropriate.


To determine the presence of Bacterial and/or Fungal pathogens which may be causing an infection.


Ear Swab

Specimen Container

Charcoal Swab

How To Request On EPIC

For electronic requesting using EPIC (RDUH ONLY):

Search for: ‘Ear Swab MC&S‘ or test code ‘LAB942

Special Instructions

Please provide relevant clinical details with the request: this helps the lab process the sample correctly and provide the best result for the patient:

Please state site of swab.

Please also state clearly the following: whether the patient is diabetic, if the patient is immunocompromised, current and recent antibiotic therapy.

Please do not repeat in under 48 hours.

Specimen Collection

  1. Where possible specimens should be collected before starting any antimicrobial therapy.
  2. Use aseptic technique.
  3. Place swab in the canal.  Rotate gently.
  4. Immediately after collection the swab should be returned to its plastic sheath (placed into the transport medium.)
  5. Label the sample with at least three identifiers (Name, D.O.B & NHS or Hospital No) and place into a specimen bag.
  6. Transport to the laboratory as soon as possible.
  7. If transport is delayed, refrigeration is preferable to storage at ambient temperature.


Processed locally in Microbiology at RDUH

Processing Time

48 – 72 Hours

Useful Links

For Patients:

Ear infections – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Ear Infection (Otitis Externa) | Patient

Ear Infection (Otitis Media): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment | Patient

For Healthcare Professionals:

Otitis externa – Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice

Acute otitis media – Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice

Otitis externa | Health topics A to Z | CKS | NICE

Otitis media – acute | Health topics A to Z | CKS | NICE

SMI – B 1 – Investigation of Ear Infections and Associated Specimens (rcpath.org)

Specimen Labelling Procedure
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