Sputum culture



Gram stain of Haemophilus influenzae



Sample requirements

60 mL wide-mouthed container 

The material required is from the lower respiratory tract, expectorated by deep coughing.

When the cough is dry, physiotherapy, postural drainage or inhalation of an aerosol before expectoration may be helpful.

Expectorate sample directly into the container. Ideally a minimum volume of 1 mL is required.

Saliva and pernasal secretions are not suitable.

Multiple samples (i.e. 3 consecutive daily samples) are NOT required for routine sputum culture.

60 mL wide-mouthed container

Required information

  • Current or recent antibiotic therapy
  • If sample is induced sputum
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Immunocompromise
  • Travel history
  • Occupational risks


Transport without delay to ensure survival of fastidious organisms. Where transport is difficult, specimens may be cultured up to 48hr after collection.

If specimens are not processed on the same day as they are collected, interpretation of results should be made with care.

If transport is delayed, refrigeration is preferable to storage at ambient temperature.

Turnaround time

2 - 5 days

Page last reviewed: 15/04/2015