Rectal Culture Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A rectal culture is the name given to a common laboratory test which is rather generic since it is used when looking for certain organisms found in the rectum. The organisms identified are the ones which may be responsible for gastrointestinal symptoms as well as disease. Thus, there is no specific rectal problem that is identified via this test.

Reasons for Rectal Culture

A rectal culture is one which is used when looking for the presence of certain disease and symptom causing organisms which may be observed in the rectum. Moreover, it is gastrointestinal problems that are looked at when this test is called for. Thus, if the patient presents with specific gastrointestinal complaints, this test may be called for. Moreover, the doctor has to have reason to believe that it is a rectal infection that would probably be behind the gastrointestinal distress.

In some cases, rather than doing a fecal culture, where such a test proves difficult, a rectal culture is utilized. In this case, it is typically because there are difficulties in obtaining a feces specimen. There are times when the test is performed if there is a possibility of the disease gonorrhea. In some settings, such as seen in nursing homes, this test may be advised to screen those with vancomycin-resistant enterococcus which may be found in the intestine. This is because this problem is easy to pass on to others in such a setting.


No preparation may be necessary as your doctor may collect the needed swab sample after conducting a rectal examination.


What is essentially done is a cotton swab is utilized for this test. This swab has to go inside the rectum and this is gently turned before it is finally taken out. Just a smear of this is enough to be sent to the culture media such that conditions of growth are promoted. This means that bacteria as well as other kinds of organisms are encouraged to flourish. In this way, the particular kinds of organisms present are discovered and it is a laboratory technician who is typically responsible for keeping tabs on such growth. In this manner, the particular disease or symptom causing organism is discovered and your doctor can then discuss treatment, depending on the particular case. This may be subject to a number of further tests to properly diagnose the nature and extent of the gastrointestinal problem.