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Sputum Culture

Per CF Foundation Guidelines, sputum cultures are obtained at every clinic and hospitalization to see what bacteria you may have and what antibiotics can be effective in fighting it. The CFF consensus statement on infection control now recommends quarterly sputum cultures and cultures during acute exacerbations. Children and adults who cannot produce a sputum sample will receive a throat swab. However, a sputum sample is preferred once a child is old enough to produce sputum.

The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital microbiology laboratory meets the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s (CFF) standards of care for processing CF sputum cultures.  The CFF established standards for processing CF sputum require that CF sputum must be plated within 3 hours on specific media to obtain accurate results.  Inaccurate sputum culture results can impact treatment decisions and health outcomes.

There will be times when we might also choose to run a "fungal culture" or AFB (Acid Fast Bacilli) test for other bacteria that may be causing illness. These tests can only be run on sputum samples, rather than a "throat swab". Below is a list of terms used to describe sensitivity testing done for the bacteria grown in your culture.

Means that the bacteria are still “sensitive” to the effects of antibiotics and therefore can be killed or weakened by them.
Means that the bacteria is between sensitive and resistant to the effects of antibiotics and the antibiotics may no longer be effective in killing the bacteria
Means that the bacteria are “resistant” to the effects of antibiotics. When bacteria are resistant, they are no longer killed or weakened by the antibiotics. The bacteria are considered resistant, when at least one major class of antibiotics is no longer effective in killing the bacteria.
Multi-Drug Resistant
Means that the bacteria are resistant to at least two major classes of antibiotics.
Where the bacteria are resistant to all the major classes of antibiotics.

Your physician will use information from your sputum culture along with other clinical symptoms to determine whether or not you need antibiotic treatment at that time and what treatment would be most effective.