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Campylobacter Culture (Stool)

Does this test have other names?

Stool sample examination, fecal (poop) smear

What is this test?

This test looks for harmful bacteria in a culture sample from your stool.

One kind of harmful bacteria is Campylobacter. It is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. Campylobacter shows up in the stomach of several animals, including pigs and cattle. But it's most likely to be passed to people through raw and undercooked chicken and other poultry. In some cases, people have become infected through unpasteurized milk and city water supplies contaminated with Campylobacter.

The infection usually runs its course in about a week without any treatment. Other infections may develop, though. They include:

  • Meningitis

  • Inflammation of the joints

  • Urinary tract infection

In rare cases, Campylobacter infection may also lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is a nerve disease that can cause temporary paralysis.

This test can tell your healthcare provider whether you have Campylobacter or a different type of harmful bacteria in your digestive tract.

Why do I need this test?

You may have this test if your healthcare provider thinks you have food poisoning or a digestive tract infection. Symptoms appear several days after you've come in contact with the bacteria. They include:

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Stomach cramping

  • Bloody diarrhea

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

Normal results are negative. This means no Campylobacter bacteria were found in your stool.

A positive result means that the bacteria were found. You may have a Campylobacter infection.

How is this test done?

This test requires a sample of your stool. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to collect and deliver the sample. If you aren't able to give a stool sample, your provider may take the sample by putting a swab into your rectum.

What might affect my test results?

Timing is important. If you've been in the hospital for more than 3 days, your results may not be accurate. Contaminating the sample with urine or toilet paper can affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Snyder, Mandy, APRN
  • Taylor, Wanda L, RN, PhD