A fungal culture is used to find out whether
fungi are present and, if so, what type of fungus it
Your doctor will collect a sample of skin and/or nail
fragments (debris) under the infected nail. If a sample of debris cannot be
removed, he or she will take a nail sample by lightly scraping the nail near
the infected area or by using a small blade to shave off a piece of
Nail or debris samples are placed in a substance that
promotes fungus growth to see if any fungi are present. The type of fungus is
then identified by using a microscope to look at the shape and pattern of the
cells. It is also identified by the color of the cells when they are stained
with special dyes.
Why It Is Done
A fungal culture will show whether a
fungal nail infection is present and what type of
fungus it is. A fungal culture is typically done when a diagnosis is unclear or
when treatment of a fungal infection has not been successful. If uncommon fungi
are identified, the infection can then be treated with different
No fungal growth is present. But the test
may be done again using more samples taken from other parts of the infected
nail. This is because there may no longer be fungi on the edge of the infected
area, where it is easiest to scrape for a sample, or in the dead tissue, even
if you have a fungal nail infection.
Fungal growth is present, and the type of
fungus is identified. Your treatment may depend on the type of fungus
What To Think About
Although fungal cultures can
identify the type of fungus infection, they are not routinely used because they
take a long time and are expensive. Another type of culture test, called the
dermatophyte test medium (DTM) culture, can tell if dermatophytes are present.
The DTM culture costs less than a traditional fungal culture, can be done in a
doctor's office, and gives results in 3 to 7 days.
If your culture
is normal, your doctor may do other tests to determine the cause of the nail
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of
||March 12, 2014