Interpretive Handbook

Test 84292 :
Bacterial Culture, Anaerobic

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Anaerobic bacteria are the greatest component of the human body's normal bacterial flora colonizing the skin, oral cavity, and genitourinary and lower gastrointestinal tracts. Their presence is important in preserving vitamin and other nutrient absorption and in preventing infection with pathogenic bacteria.


Anaerobes generally are of low pathogenicity but may possess virulence factors such as endotoxin or polysaccharide capsules or produce extracellular toxins. Disease occurs when a large inoculum develops in an area lacking oxygen and/or poor blood supply.


Typical anaerobic infections include periodontitis, abdominal or pelvic abscesses, endometritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, aspiration pneumonia, empyema and lung abscesses, sinusitis, brain abscesses, gas gangrene, and other soft tissue infections. Many Bacterioides produce beta-lactamase and are resistant to penicillins and cephalosporins. Imipenem, metronidazole, and clindamycin are effective agents although resistance to clindamycin is increasing.

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Diagnosing anaerobic bacterial infections

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Isolation of anaerobes in significant numbers from well collected specimens including blood, other normally sterile body fluids, or closed collections of purulent fluid indicates infection with that (those) organism(s).

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

Specimens should be collected by needle and syringe aspiration or surgical drainage to avoid contamination with normal-flora anaerobes; such contamination would make interpretation of culture results impossible.


Specimens must be transported in anaerobic transport vials.

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

Not applicable

Clinical References Provides recommendations for further in-depth reading of a clinical nature

Finegold SM, George WL: Anaerobic Infections in Humans. San Diego, CA, Academic Press, 1989