Genital (Reproductive) Culture

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Endocervical culture is a laboratory test that helps identify infection in the female genital tract

Genital culture is the use of enrichment and selective media to isolate and identify organisms that cause genital infections such as urethritis, cervicitis, and salpingitis (pelvic inflammatory disorder). The primary reason for a genital culture is to isolate Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of gonorrhea. Other organisms that cause genital infections and can be cultured are Gardnerella vaginalis, Candida albicans, Neissria meningitidis, Haemophilus ducreyi, Mycoplasma hominis, and Ureaplasma urealyticum.

During a vaginal examination, the health care provider takes a scraping of mucus and cells from the opening of the uterus, an area called the endocervix. The samples are placed on slides or a special dish, called a culture medium, or both, depending on the suspected cause of infection.
The laboratory team checks the slides or dish at different time periods to see if a bacteria, virus, or fungus has grown. Further tests may be done to identify the specific organism and determine the best treatment.

Genital culture test is performed on persons who have signs of abnormal discharge or skin lesions in the genital area, or complaints such as itching or pain on urination. It is performed on persons who have evidence of other sexually transmitted disorders for which culture is not routinely performed because of the high prevalence of concomitant infection. For example, there are approximately three million new cases of Chlamydia trachomatis infection in the United States each year and many infected persons also will test positive for N. gonorrhoeae. Genital culture is also performed on any person who may be a victim of a sexual assault. Genital culture may be performed as a screening test on patients who have no symptoms, but are at increased risk for infection because of sexual behavior, since many sexually transmitted disorders can be carried silently. Also, pre and postnatal genital cultures for gonococcus and group B streptococcus are performed routinely on obstetrical patients.
Although most genital infections are sexually transmitted, children or elderly persons are also at risk. In children, skin or wound infections may cause vaginal or urethral infections, especially when there has been physical injury to the genital area. Persons with deficient immune function and persons on prolonged antibiotic treatments are more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections (e.g., Canidida albicans or Torulopsis glabrata infection). Abscesses may form in the pelvic area and Bartholin's gland following pregnancy, abortion, malignancy, obstetrical procedures, obstruction, and other conditions, and these often involve anaerobic bacteria.

The test may be performed to determine the cause of vaginitis, pelvic pain, an unusual vaginal discharge, or other signs of infection. It is also used to screen for sexually transmitted disorders.

Test results
Abnormal results indicate the presence of an infection in the female genital tract.
Culture can detect:
·C. trachomatis  
·E. coli  
·Herpes simplex  
Other conditions under which the test may be done:
·Chronic urethritis  
·Gonococcemia (disseminated)  
·Pelvic inflammatory disorder (PID)  

Also you should know
Some infections, particularly gonorrhea, can be difficult to culture. In males it may be necessary to culture other sites that may be infected, such as the anus and mouth, if the patient has corresponding sexual habits which put him at risk. Up to 35% of males and 50% of females who are positive for gonococcal infection will test positive for Chlamydia trachomatis. This organism as well as Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, Trichomonas vaginalis, human immunodeficiency virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex 2, and human papilloma virus are not generally cultured. Because of their high prevalence, tests for these organisms (i.e., immunoassays, DNA probes, tests for antibodies) may also be performed. When performing genital cultures, universal precautions for prevention of transmission of bloodborne pathogens must be observed.

All information on this page is intended for your general knowledge only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.