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Viral Culture, General

Test ID: 


CPT code:



Culture, Viral, General

General Viral Culture

Mumps Viral Culture

Routine Viral Culture

Virus Culture/Isolation

Clinical Use:

Aid in the diagnosis of viral diseases (eg, conjunctivitis, congenital viral infections, keratitis, chickenpox, shingles, viral pneumonia, and diseases characterized by skin vesicles and rashes)

Test Information:

Give date of onset of illness, date of collection, and brief clinical description or the provisional diagnosis. For example, does the patient have a rash, a respiratory illness, or neurological symptoms?
Viral cultures: Specimens should be collected in the acute stage of the illness, kept moist, and refrigerated immediately. Stool specimens should not be placed into viral transport medium or frozen. Spinal fluid and throat washings must be kept cold and must not be frozen. Swabs of lesions or of throat should be rinsed immediately into 1 or 2 mL of viral transport medium; preferably, the swab should be broken off into the medium and sent in the medium to the laboratory. Autopsy material should be collected in sterile containers. Urine specimens for CMV culture must not be frozen; they should be packed with an ice pack or snow gel, but not with dry ice.

Specimen Type:

Blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), dermal, ocular, genital, mucosal, oral, rectal, respiratory, stool, tissue, urine, or biopsy

Requested Volume: 

1 mL fluid or one swab in viral transport

Container Type: 

Viral, Chlamydia, or Mycoplasma culture transport provided by LabCorp, or other appropriate transport medium; sterile screw-cap tube or container for fluids, feces, nasal washings, urine, or biopsy (no preservative); green-top (heparin) tube for blood, bone marrow, and buffy coat


Specimen should be collected during the acute phase of the disease as follows:
Blood: Collect 5 mL whole blood into a heparinized tube; sodium heparin preferred. Send at room temperature.
Cerebrospinal fluid: Collect 1 mL CSF aseptically in a sterile dry screw-cap vial. Refrigerate immediately.
Skin lesions: Open the vesicle and absorb exudate into a dry swab and/or vigorously scrape base of freshly exposed lesion with a swab to obtain cells that contain viruses. If enough vesicle fluid is available, aspirate the fluid with a fine gauge needle and tuberculin syringe, and place the fluid into cold viral transport medium. Use viral swabs for specimen collection. Refrigerate immediately.
Eye swab or scraping: Use a viral swab to collect conjunctival material. Take conjunctival scrapings with a fine sterile spatula and transfer the scraping to a viral transport medium. Refrigerate immediately.
Genital swab: See skin. Refrigerate immediately.
Rectal swab: Insert a sterile swab 2” to 4” into the rectum and rub the mucosa. Swab may be placed into cold virus transport medium. Refrigerate immediately.
Throat swab: Carefully rub the posterior wall of the nasopharynx with a dry, sterile swab. Avoid touching the tongue or buccal mucosa. Place swab in viral transport tube.
Feces: Collect 4 to 8 g of feces (about the size of a thumbnail) and place in a clean, screw-cap container. Do not dilute the specimen or use preservatives. Viral swab is acceptable. Refrigerate immediately.
Tissue: Use a fresh set of sterile instruments to collect each tissue. Place each specimen in its own dry, sterile nontoxic screw-cap container. To prevent the tissue from drying out, add a small amount of viral transport medium to the container. Identify each tissue with the patient’s name, type of tissue, and date collected. Refrigerate immediately.
Urine: Collect clean-catch, midstream urine in a screw-cap, sterile, plastic container. Refrigerate immediately.

Storage Instructions:

All specimen types except blood must be kept cold and moist (refrigerated). Blood: Stored and transported at room temperature.

Rejection Criteria

Bacterial swab specimen; specimen received in grossly leaking transport container; dry specimen; specimen submitted in fixative or additive; specimen received in expired transport media or incorrect transport device; inappropriate specimen transport conditions; specimen received after prolonged delay in transport (usually more than 72 hours); specimen types other than blood stored or transported at room temperature; wooden shaft swab in transport device; unlabeled specimen or name discrepancy between specimen and request label; hemolyzed blood sample

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