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Culture and Sensitivity

A culture is done to find out what kind of organism (usually a bacteria) is causing an illness or infection.

A sensitivity test checks to see what kind of medicine, such as an antibiotic, will work best to treat the illness or infection.

A culture is done by collecting a sample of body fluid or tissue and then adding it to a substance that helps promote the growth of bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. If there are bacteria (or other organisms) in the sample, they will grow in the culture. Bacteria usually grow quickly in a culture (2 days), while other types of organisms, such as a fungus, can take longer.

A culture and sensitivity test may be done on many different body fluids, such as urine, mucus, blood, pus, saliva, breast milk, spinal fluid, or discharge from the vagina or penis.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine
Last RevisedMay 6, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 06, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.