Materials that are appropriate for anaerobic cultures should be obtained using a technique that bypasses the normal oropharyngeal flora. Special transport media that protect the specimen from exposure to oxygen are most useful (1). Specimens should be obtained for all types of anaerobic pulmonary infections, especially those that are serious and/or fail to respond to empiric therapy.
Unacceptable or inappropriate specimens can be expected to yield normal flora also and, therefore, have no diagnostic value. The most appropriate lower respiratory specimen is a percutaneous transtracheal aspirate (TTA), tracheal aspirate obtained through protected double-lumen catheter or by lung puncture. Collection of materials from the pleural fluid and closed abscesses is also acceptable. Throat or nasopharyngeal swabs, sputum or bronchoscopic specimens, and material from superficial wounds or abscesses not collected properly to exclude surface contamination should not be cultured for anaerobic bacteria.
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