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Wound 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. Promote good wound care and only consider antimicrobial therapy for superficial wounds when there is spreading cellulitis


Culture of wound 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 a skin and/or soft tissue infections and provide appropriate antimicrobial sensitivities to guide treatment.


Wound Swab

Specimen Container

Charcoal Swab

How To Request On EPIC

For electronic requesting using EPIC (RDUH ONLY):

Search for: ‘Wound Swab MC&S‘ or test code ‘LAB503

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, what kind of wound is it? (e.g. rash, post-operative, traumatic), is it an abscess? do you require fungal culture?

Please also state clearly the following: whether the patient is diabetic, any history of foreign travel in the last 6 months, any contact with animals, is this a bite wound? (if so is it animal/human/insect), if the patient is immunocompromised, current and recent antibiotic therapy.

Is this a screening swab e.g. for MRSA, CPE etc or is a specific organism suspected?

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. If the area to be swabbed is dry, moisten the swab with sterile water or saline.
  4. Sample a representative area of the wound by moving the swab across the wound surface in a zigzag motion, at the same time as rotating it between the fingers. (Care should be taken to ensure the that the swab only comes into contact with the wound surface, avoid touching the swab on surrounding skin.)
  5. Immediately after collection the swab should be returned to its plastic sheath (placed into the transport medium.)
  6. Label the sample with at least three identifiers (Name, D.O.B & NHS or Hospital No.) and place into a specimen bag.
  7. Transport to the laboratory as soon as possible.
  8. If transport is delayed, refrigeration is preferable to storage at ambient temperature.

If a large quantity of pus is present, aspirate into a syringe and send to the laboratory in a sterile container.

When swabbing wounds such as venous leg ulcers it is preferable to clean the ulcer by irrigation with sterile saline to remove superficial colonising flora before taking the swab. (The exception to this is when taking a wound swab for MRSA screening.)


Tested in house at RD&E

Turnaround Time

48 – 72 Hours

Useful Links

Wound Culture – Lab Tests Online UK

Wound & Skin Infections – Lab Tests Online UK


Specimen Labelling Procedure
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