Subscriber Login   Users   Administrators
Integrated cloud-based solutions for clinical laboratories

Sputum Information and Courses from MediaLab, Inc.

These are the MediaLab courses that cover Sputum and links to relevant pages within the course.

Learn more about laboratory continuing education for medical technologists to earn CE credit for AMT, ASCP, NCA, and state license renewal and recertification. Or get information about laboratory safety and compliance courses that deliver cost-effective OSHA safety training and continuing education to your laboratory's employees.

Case Studies in Clinical Microbiology
Acute Onset Pneumonia

A 70-year-old transient with a productive cough, pleuritic chest pain radiating to the mid back, fever, and chills was seen in the emergency room. Expectorated sputum was sent to the laboratory for gram stain and culture. (Continue on next page)

View Page
The patient was admitted to the hospital. The sputum specimen was inoculated to sheep blood agar. Based on the colony morphology and the alpha hemolysis seen in the image to the right, the most likely identification is:View Page

Microbiology / Serology Question Bank - Review Mode (no CE)
Recovered from a sputum sample, this suspicious form measures 112 micro meters by 55 micro meters.View Page
Which of the following specimens is the most sensitive for detecting active CMV infection:View Page

Mycology: Hyaline and Dematiaceous Fungi
Based on the structures observed in this image, the most probable species of the fungus recovered from an induced sputum specimen is:View Page
The fungus illustrated in this image was recovered from an induced sputum specimen from a 74-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This isolate is most likely:View Page
An Aspergillus species was recovered from a sputum specimen of a patient with X-ray evidence of fungal pneumonia. Microscopic examination did not permit a species identification. A small amount of vegetative mycelium was removed and a direct mount prepared. The features indicated by the red arrows in this image are associated with which Aspergillus species?View Page

Mycology: Yeasts and Dimorphic Pathogens (retired 2/12/2013)
The colonies shown in the upper image were obtained on blood agar from a sputum specimen after 10 days incubation at 30°C. The lower image is a photomicrograph of a lactophenol blue mount made from a portion of the colony. The diagnosis is:View Page
The growth of the colonies shown in the upper image was obtained on blood agar from a sputum specimen after 8 days of incubation at 30°C. The lower image is a photomicrograph of a lactophenol blue mount made from a portion of the colony. The diagnosis is:View Page

Packaging and Shipping Infectious Materials (retired July 2013)
A sputum specimen from a patient suspected of having tuberculosis is being sent by commercial ground carrier to a reference laboratory. The package does not require a refrigerant.Which of these labels must be used on the outer packaging? Choice Label Choice Label AGBH CIDJ EK FL View Page

Parasitology Question Bank - Review Mode (no CE)
Match each organism listed here with the most likely specimen type where it may be recovered. Each answer may only be used once.View Page
Recovered from a sputum sample, this suspicious form measures 112 µm by 55 µm.View Page
This parasite may inhabit the small intestine or take up residence in the bile ducts. It typically measures 145 µm by 75 µm.View Page
A 38 year-old male presented to the E.R. complaining of severe cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and general fatigue. Parasitic examination of his bloody sputum revealed this suspicious form. The patient is most likely suffering from:View Page
Which of the following parasites is/are typically recovered in sputum samples?View Page
A 55 year old female, who recently returned from an extensive trip to China, presented to her physician complaining of diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The doctor ordered a complete blood count (CBC), chem 21 panel, and stool for culture and parasite examination (O & P). The CBC revealed pronounced eosinophilia. The chem 21 and stool culture were unremarkable. The O & P revealed suspicious forms like the one below that each measured approximately 140 µm by 80 µm. This patient is most likely infected with:View Page

Preliminary Identification of the Primary Select Agents of Bioterrorism
Francisella tularensis

Clinical specimens where organism may be encountered: Blood Biopsy, skin scraping, or swab Lymph node aspirate Respiratory secretions - oropharyngeal aspirate, sputum, or bronchial washingsGram stain morphology: Very tiny, gram-negative coccobacillus Pale or weak staining Due to the small size, often difficult to see individual cells

View Page
Burkholderia species

Clinical specimens where Burkholderia species may be encountered: Blood Bone marrow Respiratory specimens - sputum, throat, or nasal Wounds UrineGram stain morphology:B. mallei Gram-negative coccobacillus or small rod Arranged in pairs end-to-end, parallel bundles, or Chinese letter formB. pseudomallei Small, straight, or slightly curved gram-negative rod May demonstrate peripheral or bipolar staining as they age (appear like endospores) Smooth forms are arranged in long, parallel bundles Rough forms more irregularly arranged

View Page

Reading and Reporting Gram Stained Direct Smears
Determine the Quality of a Sputum Specimen

Prior to culturing a sputum specimen, a Gram stain should be performed to evaluate the quality of the specimen. One of two criteria are currently used to determine if the specimen is contaminated with oral flora organisms, which would make the specimen unsuitable for culture. One criterion states that the sputum specimen should be rejected if 25 or more squamous epithelial cells/low power field (SQE/LPF) are observed. The second criterion recommends a cutoff of more than 10 SQE/LPF. In either case, a minimum of 20 LPFs should be observed. Review and follow your laboratory's criteria.The low power microscopic field on the right is representative of 20 microscopic fields that were reviewed on this Gram-stained preparation of sputum. This specimen would be considered unacceptable for culture. If the specimen is determined to be a sub-optimal specimen, the clinician should be contacted and a request should be made for a new specimen. It is important to communicate that culturing the specimen that was provided will not yield useful information about the possible pathogens from the lower respiratory tract. If the specimen is determined to be a good quality, lower respiratory tract specimen, continue to examine the slide under oil immersion (1000X) magnification for bacteria, yeast, and polymorphonuclear white blood cells (PMNs) and proceed with culturing the specimen.

View Page
A large number of which of these types of cells would indicate that a sputum specimen is sub-optimal and should not be used for culture?View Page
Size and Appearance of Nonbacterial Cellular Elements on Gram Stained Smears

Type of Cell Average Size Image Comments Epithelial cells 25 µm Appear pink/red on Gram stained smear. Larger than white blood cells. Have a single nucleus. They are an indication of a suboptimal or unacceptable specimen if present in large numbers in sputum specimens, tracheal or endotracheal aspirates, or in urine specimens. White blood cells 12 µm Appear pink/red on Gram stained smear. Most often, polymorphonuclear white blood cells (PMNs). White blood cells indicate inflammation and possible infection. The direct smear examination should focus within and around these cells. Hyphae/pseudohyphae Varies Appear blue on Gram stained smear. Hyphae are tubular filamentous fungal elements, which may show branching or intertwining. Pseudohyphae are multiple buds of yeast that do not detach, thereby forming chains. Yeast 7 µm Appear blue on Gram stained smear. Round to oval, often budding. About the same size as red blood cells. Generally much larger than bacteria. A few yeast may be present as normal flora in upper respiratory tract or genital tract. They may be significant if they predominate, or if budding yeast forms are seen. Red blood cells 7µm Appear red on Gram stained smear Not usually considered a significant finding.

View Page
This Gram stain was prepared from a sputum specimen and is viewed under oil immersion (1000X). What is the structure that is indicated by the arrow?View Page

Reading Gram Stained Direct Smears
Cellular elements

The Gram stain reaction and appearance can be used to identify most cellular material seen in a direct smear. Identification of cellular elements present in a direct clinical smear is important because most of these elements play an important role in the disease process. For example, the quality of a sputum sample can be assessed by determining the relative numbers of squamous epithelial cells and polymorphonuclear leukocytes (segmented neutrophils) present.

View Page
Significance of Specific Findings:

Epithelial cells in large numbers within sputum smears means that the specimen is predominantly oral saliva, rather than true sputum from the lung. Epithelial cells in urine smears indicate that the sample has been contaminated by organisms found on the vulva or distal urethra. Bacteria found near or on epithelial cells are usually normal contaminating bacterial flora.White blood cells indicate inflammation and possible infection. The direct smear examination should focus within and around these cells.Red blood cells in a direct smear are not usually significant.Yeast may be present as normal flora in upper respiratory tract or genital tract. They may be significant if they predominate, or if budding yeast forms are seen.Hyphae are more likely to indicate the presence of fungal infection, but this determination requires correlation with clinical findings.Bacteria found in spinal fluid, blood, tissue and specimens from other sterile sites are always significant.Body fluids which are normally sterile must be examined carefully. If only one organism per oil immersion field is identified, then there are about 105 organisms per mL present in the sample! Bacteria observed in specimens from the throat, genital tract and other areas containing normal flora suggest infection only if their composition and type varies significantly from the norm.

View Page

Tuberculosis Awareness for Health Care Workers

Symptoms of active TB include: Coughing for more than 3 weeksLoss of appetiteUnexplained weight lossNight sweatsBloody sputumHoarsenessFeverFatigueChest pain Symptoms of TB can mimic other diseases and the physician must consider the patient's history as well as physical symptoms before making a final diagnosis.

View Page
Procedures with Increased TB Risk

Some procedures increase the potential for TB risk because they create aerosols. They include:Sputum induction and aerosol treatments Bronchoscopy Endotracheal intubation and suctioning Autopsy Microbiology processing TB specimens Surgical drainage of TB abscesses

View Page

White Cell and Platelet Disorders: Peripheral Blood Clues to Nonneoplastic Conditions
Case History Two

An 80-year-old man was seen in the emergency room with sudden onset of right-side chest pain accentuated on inspiration. His cough was productive of yellow sputum, and he was short of breath. His temperature was 101.2°F. A chest X-ray revealed right middle lobe pneumonia. A complete blood count (CBC) was ordered. The results were as follows:CBC ParameterPatient ResultReference IntervalWBC33.0 x 109/L4.0 - 11.0 x 109/LRBC4.5 x 1012/L4.5 - 5.9 x 1012/LHemoglobin15.2 g/dL13.5 - 17.5 g/dLHematocrit44%41 - 53%Platelet200 x 109/L150 - 450 x 109/LSegmented neutrophil6540 - 80%Band neutrophil100 - 5%Lymphocyte 525 - 35%Eosinophil 30 - 5%Basophil 20 - 2%Monocyte252 - 10%A peripheral smear was reviewed based on the elevated WBC and increased monocyte count. A representative field from the Wright-Giemsa stained smear (1000X magnification) is shown on the right. The cells indicated by the blue arrows are atypical monocytes. They have abundant cytoplasm that is more blue than the typical gray-blue cytoplasm of normal monoctes. A few scattered vacuoles are also present. The atypical monocytes, in company with toxic neutrophils (indicated by the red arrow), appeared to be a response to infection. The patient had a past history of tuberculosis, which may account for the monocytosis.

View Page

MediaLab, Inc.    |    (877) 776-8460 (tollfree)    |