Throat, Wound & General Swabs

Specimen types you should send:

Throat Swabs:

  • For throat swabs samples taken from the inflammed areas of the pharynx are most likely to grow the causative organism of acute tonsillopharyngitis.

General swabs (i.e. surface wound swabs):

  • For a representative sample of a wound it is important that not only pus is sent but more importantly material from the advancing margin of the lesion. For abscesses the walls of the abscess should be firmly sampled.
  • Open lesions and open abscess (including burns wounds). Decontaminate the skin, sample the exudate from the base or margin of the lesion by firmly applying the swab to it.
  • Pustules and Vesicles See above.(friction blisters of severe cellulitis are not appropriate for culture. Vesicular lesions of suspected Chickenpox or Zoster  should be sent for virological examination (see how to sample - Virology)

How to Collect the Sample

  • Disinfect the skin site thoroughly prior to puncture or incision. If necessary use sterile gloves and sterile drapes around the incision or puncture site.
  • Aspirate the body fluid into a syringe and decant the fluid into the sterile container.
  • Screw the lid back on the container and make sure that it does not leak.


  • See Pathology Labelling Policy. Label the specimen with patient information (First Name, Surname, DoB, location, physician, time and date) and also fill in those details on the request form.
  • A good history on the request form helps the laboratory tremendously.
  • In particular note the likelihood of specific diseases on the form which you would like us to look for. Tuberculosis is on often under-considered differential diagnosis but requires additional culture in our laboratory.

Which Container does it go in?

Image of types of containers for swabs

A variety of transport swabs are available. For throat swabs and general swabs (i.e. wound swabs) a dacron or calcium alginate swab in clear transport medium is satisfactory. For cervical swabs an approved transport medium should be used which guarantees the survival of N. gonorrhoeae. Different swabs are also used for detection of genital chlamydia infection (see appropriate section of this user guide).


  • Transport the sample to the laboratory as quickly as possible, refrigerate if not being sent immediately i.e within 1hr.



  • Tissue samples should be sent to the laboratory  as soon as possible in a sterile container, (maximum size 30ml)
  • Specimens of hair, nail of skin for fungal culture should be wrapped on clean paper and placed in an envelope. A collection kit for these specimens is available (ask the Mycology department for advice) 

Page Reviewed: 15/05/14 | Updated by: Kevin Roberts