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Gonorrhea Culture (DNA Probe)

Does this test have other names?

Nucleic acid hybridization test, DNA probe test, molecular probe test

What is this test?

This test looks for DNA of gonorrhea bacteria in a sample of bodily fluid.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by N. gonorrhoeae. This test is done on the body fluids collected from the affected areas. These are mostly the cervix, urethra, penis, or rectum.

The samples are sent to a special lab where millions of copies of the DNA are made. An advantage of this test is that it can tell gonorrhea bacteria from chlamydia bacteria. This is important because chlamydia and gonorrhea cause the same symptoms. Another advantage is the results from a DNA probe can be reported faster than tests that grow cultures to see if the bacteria are present.

Why do I need this test?

You might have this test if your healthcare provider suspects that you have gonorrhea. Symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  • Vaginal discharge

  • Burning sensation during urination

  • Pelvic pain

  • Penile discharge

You might also have this test as part of prenatal testing or as a screening if you are sexually active.

What other tests might I have along with this test?  

Your healthcare provider may also order a rectal gonorrhea test if you're a woman and he or she suspects that you have genital gonorrhea. Oral and rectal cultures are also done on men and women who have engaged in oral or rectal intercourse.

Your provider also might order a tissue biopsy or blood tests to confirm STDs. If the test results are positive, they should be repeated.

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, meaning that the lab found no evidence of gonorrhea.

If you test positive for gonorrhea, you'll be started on treatment to cure the disease. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause severe reproductive and other health problems. Your sexual partners should be tested and treated as well.   

How is this test done?

This test requires a sample of bodily fluid. Your healthcare provider will take the sample by inserting a sterile, cotton-tipped swab into the area to be tested. He or she will move it from side-to-side to collect cells. Healthcare providers often ask for swabs from more than one site to be sure to find bacteria if they are present.

If you're a woman, you may use a vulvovaginal swab yourself. Or your provider may use an endo-cervical swab. Men usually give a urine specimen.

What might affect my test results?

If you are a woman, your test resulted could be affected by:

  • Having your period

  • Douching or tub bathing within 24 hours of testing

  • Using lubricants and disinfectants

If you are a man, your test results could be affected by:

  • Urinating within an hour of testing

  • Massaging the prostate

The presence of stool may contaminate cultures taken in the rectum. Also antibiotics could affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But women shouldn't bathe or douche within 24 hours of testing. Men shouldn't urinate within an hour of testing.  In addition, be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Taylor, Wanda L, RN, PhD
  • Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C