Pathology Handbook

Sputum analysis

Clinical Indication


Test Includes


Culture; antibiotic sensitivity testing will be performed on potential pathogens


Microscopy for acid fast bacilli (AFB)
Culture for Mycobacteria

Request Form 

Request via ICE


On request during routine working hours

Specific Criteria

An early morning deep cough specimen collected before eating, drinking or cleaning teeth is required. Saliva is not satisfactory, and such specimens will be discarded

Specimens MUST arrive in Microbiology on the day they are collected

Please give detailed clinical information, including date of onset/contact with the suspected infection, and any current, or intended, antibiotic therapy

Patient Preparation


Turnaround Time

Microscopy: AFB - next routine working day

Culture: routine - 48 hours, Mycobacteria - up to 6 weeks for a negative report


Sputum, White or orange capped large universal container


Large white top universal


Samples should be transported to laboratory immediately

Lab Handling

Samples should be processed as soon as possible

Causes for Rejection

Unlabelled / inadequately labelled sample
Leaking sample
Delay in sample reaching laboratory