Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test-Introduction, Report, Clinical Significance, Common Pathogens, and Keynotes

Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test-Introduction, Report, Clinical Significance, Common Pathogens, and Keynotes


The Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test is a diagnostic tool used primarily to identify the causative microorganism(s) of an infection and to determine their susceptibility to specific antibiotics.

Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test: An Overview

1. Purpose:

  • Identification: The test identifies which bacteria or fungus is causing an infection. Pus, which is a thick fluid containing dead tissue, bacteria, and white blood cells, is often a sign of an infection.
  • Sensitivity: Once the causative organism is identified, the sensitivity test determines which antibiotics or antifungal medications will be most effective against it.

2. Procedure:

  • Sample Collection: A sample of pus is taken from the infected site, usually using a sterile swab or syringe.
  • Culture: The sample is then placed on or in various nutrient media to promote the growth of bacteria or fungi. These are incubated for a period (typically 24-48 hours) to allow any organisms present to multiply.
  • Identification: After incubation, the growth is observed. Based on the characteristics of the colonies (such as shape, color, size, and hemolytic properties on blood agar), and additional biochemical tests, the type of bacteria or fungus is identified.
  • Antibiotic Sensitivity Testing: Discs or strips impregnated with standardized concentrations of antibiotics are placed onto the agar where the bacteria have grown. After further incubation, the area around the disc or strip is observed for inhibition of bacterial growth. This indicates sensitivity to that particular antibiotic. The larger the zone of inhibition, the more sensitive the bacterium is to that antibiotic.

3. Results and Interpretation:

  • Sensitive (S): The bacteria or fungus is inhibited by the antibiotic, indicating that the drug might be effective in treating the infection.
  • Intermediate (I): The microorganism’s response to the antibiotic is in between sensitive and resistant. This can sometimes mean that the drug may be effective if given at a higher dose or if it concentrates in the specific tissue or fluid where the infection is present.
  • Resistant (R): The microorganism is not inhibited by the antibiotic, indicating that the drug is likely not effective against the infection caused by this organism.

4. Significance: This test plays a crucial role in clinical settings. Overprescription or misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, a significant global health concern. By tailoring antibiotic therapy based on the results of the sensitivity test, healthcare providers can ensure the most effective treatment while minimizing the risk of antibiotic resistance.

5. Limitations: It’s essential to understand that not all infections produce pus, and sometimes a culture may not grow even if an infection is present. Furthermore, the in-vitro sensitivity might not always correlate with in-vivo efficacy due to factors like drug pharmacokinetics and host immune response.


Patient Details:

  • Name: John Doe (Just for  an example)
  • Age: 35
  • Sex: Male
  • Referred by: Dr. Jane Smith (Just for  an example)
  • Date of Sample Collection: October 1, 2023
  • Date of Report: October 5, 2023

Test: Pus Culture and Sensitivity

Sample: Pus from wound

Culture Report:

No growth: Negative

if positive-

  • Growth: Positive
  • Organism isolated: Staphylococcus aureus

Antibiotic Sensitivity Report:

PenicillinResistant (R)
MethicillinSensitive (S)
VancomycinSensitive (S)
CiprofloxacinSensitive (S)
ClindamycinIntermediate (I)
ErythromycinResistant (R)
TetracyclineSensitive (S)

Interpretation: The isolated organism, Staphylococcus aureus, is sensitive to Methicillin, Vancomycin, Ciprofloxacin, and Tetracycline, intermediate to Clindamycin, and resistant to Penicillin and Erythromycin.

Recommendations: Antibiotic therapy should be chosen based on the sensitivity profile, patient’s medical history, and other relevant factors. Methicillin, Vancomycin, or Ciprofloxacin may be effective choices.

Note: This report should be interpreted by a qualified physician/clinician. The final choice of antibiotics should consider patient-specific factors.

Clinical Significance

The Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test is of paramount clinical importance in the management and treatment of infections. Here are the primary reasons underscoring its clinical significance:

  1. Targeted Treatment:
    • Specificity: By identifying the causative organism(s) of an infection, clinicians can prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic or antifungal agent, ensuring effective treatment.
    • Preventing Misuse: Without such tests, there’s a risk of using broad-spectrum antibiotics unnecessarily, which might not be effective against the specific pathogen causing the infection.
  2. Combating Antibiotic Resistance:
    • Resistance Identification: The sensitivity test reveals which antibiotics the organism is resistant to, enabling physicians to avoid prescribing them. This is crucial as using an ineffective antibiotic can lead to therapeutic failure and might enhance the spread of resistant strains.
    • Stewardship: By promoting the use of the most appropriate antibiotic, the test supports antibiotic stewardship efforts to reduce the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  3. Improved Patient Outcomes:
    • Faster Recovery: Targeted antibiotic therapy can lead to quicker recovery times, shorter hospital stays, and fewer complications.
    • Reduction in Morbidity and Mortality: In serious infections, timely and appropriate antibiotic therapy can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality.
  4. Cost-effective Healthcare:
    • Resource Management: By guiding the use of the most effective antibiotics, the test can lead to a reduction in prolonged hospital stays and reduce the need for further diagnostic tests or treatments.
    • Preventing Overtreatment: Avoiding the use of unnecessary or ineffective drugs saves costs and reduces potential side effects in patients.
  5. Monitoring Trends and Outbreaks:
    • Surveillance: Regular culture and sensitivity testing in hospitals and other healthcare facilities can help monitor local and regional trends in antibiotic resistance.
    • Outbreak Identification: Detecting sudden increases in specific organisms can alert healthcare professionals to potential outbreaks.
  6. Guiding Surgical Interventions:
    • In some cases, if a resistant organism is identified in a deep-seated infection, surgical intervention (e.g., drainage of an abscess) might be more appropriate than antibiotic therapy alone.
  7. Therapeutic Monitoring:
    • If a patient doesn’t improve despite antibiotic therapy, the culture and sensitivity test can be repeated to ensure that the right pathogen was identified initially and that it hasn’t developed new resistance mechanisms.

Common Pathogens

Pus is formed as a result of an inflammatory response, and it contains dead white blood cells, tissue debris, and often bacteria or other pathogens. When a sample is sent for a Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test, it’s typically to identify any microbial pathogens present, particularly bacteria, and to determine their antibiotic sensitivities.

The common pathogens that may be isolated from pus samples include:

  1. Gram-Positive Bacteria:
    • Staphylococcus aureus: This bacterium is a common cause of skin and soft tissue infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a particular concern due to its resistance to many antibiotics.
    • Streptococcus spp.: Species such as Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus) can cause cellulitis, impetigo, and more severe infections like necrotizing fasciitis.
    • Enterococcus spp.: These can be involved in deeper wound infections or those associated with medical procedures.
  2. Gram-Negative Bacteria:
    • Escherichia coli: Commonly associated with gut flora, it can be involved in wound infections, particularly if they are near the urogenital region.
    • Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Often found in burns, wounds, and sometimes in surgical site infections.
    • Klebsiella spp.: Can be associated with wound infections.
    • Proteus spp.: Common in wound infections, particularly in the foot ulcers of diabetic patients.
    • Bacteroides spp.: These anaerobic bacteria can be found in abscesses and deeper wound infections, particularly in the abdominal region.
  3. Anaerobes:
    • In addition to Bacteroides, other anaerobes like Clostridium spp. and Peptostreptococcus spp. can be implicated, especially in polymicrobial infections, deep abscesses, or when there’s necrotic tissue.
  4. Fungi:
    • Though less common than bacterial pathogens, fungi like Candida spp. can sometimes be isolated, especially in immunocompromised patients or deep-seated infections.
  5. Mycobacteria:
    • Mycobacterium tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacteria might be isolated from pus in the case of tuberculous abscesses or other atypical infections.

The specific pathogens isolated can vary based on the infection’s anatomical location, the patient’s underlying health conditions, prior antibiotic use, and exposure to healthcare settings. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for multiple pathogens to be present in a single infection, particularly in chronic wounds or deep abscesses.


Here are keynotes on the Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test:

  1. Purpose:
    • Detect and identify microorganisms (bacteria or fungi) causing an infection.
    • Determine the antibiotic or antifungal susceptibility of the identified pathogens.
  2. Sample Collection:
    • Pus is obtained from the infected site using a sterile swab, syringe, or during a surgical procedure.
  3. Procedure:
    • Culture: Pus is cultured on specific media to allow growth of bacteria or fungi.
    • Identification: Organisms are identified based on colony characteristics and biochemical tests.
    • Sensitivity Test: Antibiotics discs or strips are placed on bacterial/fungal growth to determine susceptibility.
  4. Results:
    • Sensitive (S): Pathogen is inhibited by the antibiotic, suggesting it may be effective for treatment.
    • Intermediate (I): Uncertain effectiveness; might work under specific conditions.
    • Resistant (R): Pathogen is not inhibited, suggesting the antibiotic is not effective.
  5. Clinical Importance:
    • Enables targeted and effective treatment.
    • Prevents misuse of antibiotics, thereby reducing antibiotic resistance.
    • Improves patient outcomes with appropriate therapeutic choices.
    • Supports antibiotic stewardship and public health goals.
  6. Common Pathogens:
  7. Considerations:
    • Test interpretation should be done by qualified professionals.
    • Patient-specific factors, clinical presentation, and local resistance patterns should guide final antibiotic choices.
    • Not all infections produce pus, and a negative culture does not always rule out an infection.

Further Readings

For a comprehensive understanding of the Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test, including its principles, techniques, interpretation, and clinical implications, you can refer to the following sources:

  1. Textbooks:
    • “Bailey & Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology” by Patricia Tille: A standard reference for clinical microbiology, this book provides detailed methods and insights into microbial identification and sensitivity testing.
    • “Koneman’s Color Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology” by Gary W. Procop and Elmer W. Koneman: An in-depth guide to diagnostic microbiology techniques, including culture and sensitivity testing.
  2. Journals and Articles:
    • Clinical Microbiology Reviews (CMR): A leading journal in the field that often features reviews and articles about laboratory techniques and their clinical relevance.
    • Search for articles on the topic in journals like “Journal of Clinical Microbiology” or “Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy” for updates on methodologies and antibiotic resistance patterns.
  3. Online Resources:
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Provides guidelines on antibiotic stewardship and might have relevant information on culture and sensitivity tests.
    • World Health Organization (WHO): Offers resources on antibiotic resistance and might have guidelines or reports related to culture and sensitivity testing.
    • Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI): Provides standardized laboratory procedures, including methods for antimicrobial susceptibility testing.
  4. Courses and Workshops:
    • Universities and institutions that offer clinical microbiology or infectious disease courses.
    • Workshops or courses organized by microbiological societies or associations, like the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).
  5. Case Studies:
    • Looking into case studies published in clinical journals can give insights into real-world applications and challenges of the Pus Culture and Sensitivity Test.
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