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Parasitology Specimen Collection

Fecal specimens should be passed into clean, dry containers or on clean paper and transferred to some type of container suitable for transportation to the laboratory. Feces obtained from toilet bowls are unacceptable. Feces mixed with urine are unacceptable. Specimens collected on cotton tipped applicator sticks are unacceptable.

Information identifying the patient and the date and hour of passage should be recorded on the specimen cup. The time of passage is especially important since some parasites soon die outside the body and old specimens may be erroneously reported as negative.

A total of three stool specimens, collected one to two days apart, are recommended to ensure detection of intestinal parasites if results from the first specimen are negative. Multiple specimens should not be collected on the same day for ova and parasite testing.

Formed specimens should be delivered to the laboratory within four (4) hours. Formed specimens accepted any hour of the day.

Liquid or soft stool specimens should be sent to the laboratory immediately so that they can be placed into preservative solutions.

Purged specimens may be desirable or necessary in some cases. Saline cathartics, such as sodium sulfate or buffered phosphosoda, should be used for purgation. Mineral oil, bismuth or magnesia compounds are unsatisfactory. After purgation, multiple specimens should be sent to the laboratory for immediate examination. The laboratory should be notified when a purge is scheduled.

The techniques of specimen collection should be varied to meet a given situation. In unusual cases the physician may order parasitological examination on tissue specimens, duodenal aspirate, urine, sputum, material from ulcers, abscess, etc. Always send these specimens to the laboratory immediately. If in doubt, check with the laboratory as to proper methods of collection of these unusual specimens.

Certain drugs and compounds will render the stool specimens unsatisfactory for examination or detection of parasites. Among these are anti-diarrheal compounds, antibiotics, antacids, oils, bismuth and barium. Specimens should be obtained before these compounds are used, otherwise collection must be delayed until the effects have passed. Specimens should not be collected for 3 to 10 days after barium or bismuth. Antibiotics often cause a temporary decrease or absence of organisms in the stools and reliable diagnosis may not be possible for 2 to 3 weeks or more.

Collection and Transport of Specimens for Parasites

Pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis)  

  • Use Swube paddle (Falcon #2012)
  • The lab recommends three separate specimens, on three separate days, be obtained a few hours after the patient has retired for the evening or immediately after arising, but before bathing or bowel movement.
  • Remove the swube paddle from the tube by pulling on the plastic cap. Carefully separate the buttocks and press the sticky surface of the paddle against several areas of the perianal region.
  • Replace the paddle into the tube and transport the labeled tube to the laboratory or one of the off-site locations.  

Arthropod (Tick) Identification 

  • Use clean container 
  • Use forceps to remove tick with a slow steady pull that will not break off body parts.
  • Place tick in a capped jar or tube with 1mL 70% ethanol or a plain tightly capped container.  

Vaginal fluid, scrapings or washings for Trichomonas vaginalis Detection  

  • Collect vaginal specimens using the BD Affirm VPIII Ambient Temperature Transport System (ATTS). Using a speculum without lubricant, swab the mucosa high in the vaginal canal.
  • Place swab back into the BD Affirm ATTS tube and transport at room temperature.  

Prostatic fluid 

  • Use sterile tube  

Urine, midstream 

  • 10 mL in sterile specimen cup 
  • For urine collection follow the instructions

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