Clostridium botulinum culture
What is this test?
This test detects a type of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. A sample of tissue or fluid from a wound, or a sample of stool may be collected for this test. Food may also be sampled for this test. This test is used when an infection called botulism is suspected.
What are related tests?
Why do I need this test?
Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have:
- Infant botulism
- Wound botulism
When and how often should I have this test?
When and how often laboratory tests are done may depend on many factors. The timing of laboratory tests may rely on the results or completion of other tests, procedures, or treatments. Lab tests may be performed immediately in an emergency, or tests may be delayed as a condition is treated or monitored. A test may be suggested or become necessary when certain signs or symptoms appear.
Due to changes in the way your body naturally functions through the course of a day, lab tests may need to be performed at a certain time of day. If you have prepared for a test by changing your food or fluid intake, lab tests may be timed in accordance with those changes. Timing of tests may be based on increased and decreased levels of medications, drugs or other substances in the body.
The age or gender of the person being tested may affect when and how often a lab test is required. Chronic or progressive conditions may need ongoing monitoring through the use of lab tests. Conditions that worsen and improve may also need frequent monitoring. Certain tests may be repeated to obtain a series of results, or tests may need to be repeated to confirm or disprove results. Timing and frequency of lab tests may vary if they are performed for professional or legal reasons.
How should I get ready for the test?
Before giving a stool sample, tell the healthcare worker if you have diarrhea or are using antibiotics, barium, bismuth, oil, iron, magnesium, or medication to stop diarrhea.
Tell your healthcare worker if you are constipated, as there may be further instructions for you before this test.
Before a wound culture, you may be offered medication for pain. You will need to have your body in a position to allow the healthcare worker access to the wound.
How is the test done?
A sample of stool or a sample from a wound may be collected for this test. This test may also be done on food samples.
For a stool sample, you will be asked to have a bowel movement into a special container. Avoid adding urine, water, tissues, or toilet paper to the stool sample.
A wound culture sample may be made up of cells, tissue, or fluid. Methods used to obtain a wound culture vary depending on many factors, including the location and type of wound. Before the procedure, the healthcare worker will usually clean the area with antiseptic solution, and place sterile cloth around the wound. To collect a sample from certain wounds, the healthcare worker will press or squeeze near or on the wound and use a sterile swab to gather fluid, cells, or tissue. The swab may also be inserted deeply into the wound and rotated to collect a sample. For a deep wound, a needle and syringe may be used to draw material from the base of the wound for the sample.
How will the test feel?
The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the test. Inform the person doing the test if you feel that you cannot continue with the test.
What should I do after the test?
After giving a stool sample in a healthcare facility, close the container if it has a lid, and place the container where the healthcare worker instructed. Clean your hands with soap and water. If you have been asked to collect the stool sample while at home, follow the directions provided.
After a wound culture, follow the healthcare worker’s instructions regarding taking care of the wound. Call your healthcare worker if you have increasing pain, redness, swelling, discharge or bleeding from the wound. Inform them if you develop a fever, start vomiting, or have increasing fatigue.
What are the risks?
Stool: Giving a stool sample is generally considered safe. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have questions or concerns about this test.
Ask the healthcare worker to explain the risks of this test or procedure to you before it is performed.
What are normal results for this test?
Laboratory test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and many other factors. If your results are different from the results suggested below, this may not mean that you have a disease. Contact your healthcare worker if you have any questions. The following is considered to be a normal result for this test:
- No growth 
What follow up should I do after this test?
Ask your healthcare worker how you will be informed of the test results. You may be asked to call for results, schedule an appointment to discuss results, or notified of results by mail. Follow up care varies depending on many factors related to your test. Sometimes there is no follow up after you have been notified of test results. At other times follow up may be suggested or necessary. Some examples of follow up care include changes to medication or treatment plans, referral to a specialist, more or less frequent monitoring, and additional tests or procedures. Talk with your healthcare worker about any concerns or questions you have regarding follow up care or instructions.
After a wound culture you may need to do wound care. Ask your healthcare worker for wound care instructions, including how often wound care should be done.
Where can I get more information?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - http://www.cdc.gov/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov
- World Health Organization - www.who.int
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Botulism in theUnited States, 1899-1996. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, GAAvailable from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/botulism.pdf. As accessed February 14, 2005.
 Hatheway CL: Botulism: the present status of the disease. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 1995; 195:55-75.
Last Updated: 3/4/2018