Does this test have other names?
Stool test, stool sample
What is this test?
This test looks for bacteria, viruses, and other germs in your stool. This test can
help find out what's causing a digestive tract infection.
For this test, your stool sample is put in a special container with the nutrients
that bacteria or other germs need to grow. The lab waits until enough germs are present
to be seen under a microscope. Once your healthcare provider knows the type of germ
causing your infection, he or she can diagnose and treat your illness.
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects that you have a digestive
tract infection. Symptoms may include:
Stools that have blood or mucus in them
Severe stomach pain or cramping
Nausea or vomiting
Diarrhea that lasts more than a few days
These symptoms are often caused by food poisoning. You can get food poisoning by eating
food or drinking water that has been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses,
or other germs.
You may also need this test if you have immune problems or if your white blood cell
count is high. This is a sign that your body is trying to fight off an infection.
You may also need this test if you've traveled to a region where clean water is unavailable
and you have symptoms of a parasitic infection. You may also need this test if you
have diarrhea that doesn't go away with treatment.
You may also need this test if you have taken broad-spectrum antibiotics or if you
are an older adult. These factors can make it more likely that you will pick up a
dangerous strain of bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests to help find out the bacteria
or viruses causing your infection. These tests include:
Other stool tests
Loeffler methylene blue stain
Blood tests. These include a complete blood count, serum electrolyte assessment, blood
urea nitrogen, or creatinine test.
C. difficile test
Your healthcare provider may also order tests to help rule out other conditions like
a urinary infection or appendicitis. These tests include:
Viral antigen stool test
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
Normal results are negative. This means that no germs were found in your stool culture
and that you don't have an infection.
Positive results mean bacteria, parasites, or other germs were found in your stool
culture. They may be causing your stomach problems.
Sometimes the test shows a false-negative result. This means the test missed certain
infectious bacteria. If you still have symptoms of infection, your healthcare provider
may order other tests to find out the cause of your stomach problems.
How is this test done?
This test requires a stool sample. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to collect
a sample in a disposable specimen container with a lid. Don't collect stool material
from the toilet bowl or put toilet paper into the specimen container. Wear rubber
or latex gloves when collecting the sample. Be sure to wash your hands well when you
Does this test pose any risks?
This test poses no known risks.
What might affect my test results?
Taking certain types of medicine may affect your results. These medicines include
antibiotics, medicines for diarrhea, enemas, and laxatives.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test. But 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.