None of us are alien to stomach disorders. And if you have faced trouble with your gastrointestinal system that might not have mitigated on its own, you might have noticed your doctor asking for a stool test. Yes, you heard that right! Apart from our blood and urine, even the unwanted faeces that are expelled out of the body can speak volumes about our health.
What Is Stool Culture?
A Stool Culture test, also known as stool test, faecal sample test or stool sample test is a laboratory test that chiefly helps to determine the specific types of bacteria, virus, or other germs that are present in the digestive tract. It usually provides the doctor with valuable information about what's going on when a child or an adult has a problem in the stomach, intestines, or other part of the gastrointestinal (GI) system. It also primarily helps in diagnosing medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, anal fissures, haemorrhoids, gastric or colon cancer, as well as to detect the presence of blood in the stool sample.
Why Is It Done?
The doctor usually suggests for a stool test when a person shows signs and symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Diarrhoea that lasts for more than few days
- Blood or mucus in the stool
A stool test also helps to identify the microorganisms causing the infection including Shigella, E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia etc. Additionally, the test also helps to detect whether the ongoing treatment is effective or not and also helps to assess carriers (people who have had an infection previously but are currently having no illness but can still infect other people).
How To Prepare For The Stool Culture Test?
Unlike blood tests, no special test preparation is required for a fecal test. A fresh sample of stool is collected in a sterile container and sent to the laboratory for testing.
In case you are constipated or you’re having trouble producing a sample, ensure you have a green salad or some high-fiber rich foods that may help to move your digestive tract along.
Make sure to inform the doctor about the consumption of any herbs, supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs as it could affect the test results.
How A Stool Culture Is Performed?
The stool Culture can be carried out at home with the help of a special container that the doctor provides to collect the sample.
At first write your name and date of birth or serial number as asked by the doctor on the collection container.
There are several ways to collect the sample.
Place a plastic wrap loosely over the toilet bowl so that it is held in place by the toilet seat. Ensure that the poop doesn’t touch the inside of the toilet as it could pick up germs and microbes. Use the one-time use spatula provided along with the container to collect a walnut-sized sample and place it in the sterile vial. Do make sure to collect any poop that has mucus, blood or watery parts in it. Avoid getting urine mixed up with the stool as it can contaminate the test sample. Try to pee before the collection to avoid sudden mishap. Put the container in a sealed plastic bag and wash your hands well with soap and water to remove the presence of any germs. Flush out any leftover poop down the toilet and return the sample to the doctor’s office as soon as possible for testing. The stool sample can be kept in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours.
In case of kids or babies wearing diapers, line the diaper with plastic wrap in such a way so that it will prevent urine and stool from mixing in order to get a better sample.
In the next phase in the lab, the technician places a sample of the specimen in a special petri dish. The dish is then filled with a gel that boosts the growth of bacteria or other germs. These petri dishes are each kept at a temperature that ensures the quickest growth of targeted microorganism. If there is growth, the germs are identified. The lab technician may also run more tests to determine the best treatment for quick recovery. Since culturing of microorganisms take some time, the results usually come within 2-3 days.
Are There Any Risks Of Stool Culture?
There are no reported risks or side effects of a stool culture test. The test is chiefly safe, painless, and quite private as the person generally uses the bathroom alone. In case of constipation, try having a high-fiber rich dinner on the previous night to get a smooth flow of stool next morning. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as the stool sample may contain infectious pathogens that can spread onto others.
How To Interpret The Results?
The stool culture results usually take a few days to come in depending upon the growth of the microorganism.
If the stool culture test comes back negative, it usually indicates the absence of any infectious bacteria in the stool, i.e., there is no stomach infection to worry about.
A positive result on the other hand indicates, the presence of a germ, virus, or other type of bacteria. The doctor then determines that specific type of microbe present that is causing the intestinal infection and chalks out an effective treatment plan for the patient to mitigate the infection.