Clinical Bacteriology

The bacteriology department tests a wide variety of sample types for bacterial and fungal pathogens. Microbiology results can take a bit longer than more straightforward blood tests, because we have to allow time for the organisms to grow before we can reliably identify them and do further work on them. We test samples from every area of the body to look for evidence of infection, such as sputum samples for diagnosis of chest infections, nail clippings to check for fungal nail infections, faecal samples to find bacterial and parasitic causes of gastroenteritis, cerebrospinal fluid samples to check for meningitis, and pus or tissue samples to investigate the cause of abscesses or other deep-seated infections, to name but a few.

Significant organisms are presumptively identified by their appearance, and the identification is confirmed by a combination of biochemical testing, mass spectrometry and sometimes their appearance under the microscope. The sensitivity of these organisms to any relevant antimicrobials is tested to help direct treatment, or to allow de-escalation of broad spectrum antibiotics to a more targeted approach. In certain samples we use techniques such as microscopy or flow cytometry to look for microscopic elements such as white blood cells, crystals, or parasitic ova and larvae, which are all valuable indicators of infection or other disease in certain samples.

We also invest significant amounts of resources into screening for the so-called “hospital superbugs” MRSA and Clostridium difficile, to help infection control teams to quickly identify infected individuals and put measures in place to prevent its spread.

Operational Lead: Mrs Karen Reynolds

Clinical Lead: Dr Abid Hussain


A complete list of currently available assays can be found in the pathology test database


Please click on links below for more information related to some of our Clinical Bacteriology Services:

Guidelines for Taking Routine Samples for Bacteriology

Guidelines for Taking Blood Cultures

Information on Antibiotic Assays

Vancomycin Service


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The laboratories at Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital and Solihull Hospital form part of the services provided by University Hospitals Birmingham and are UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited to the ISO 15189:2012 standard. For a list of accredited tests and other information please visit the UKAS website using the following link:

  • Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull Hospital pathology laboratories are a UKAS accredited medical laboratory No.8217
  • United Kingdom Health Security Agency laboratory is a UKAS accredited medical laboratory No.8213

Tests not appearing on the UKAS Schedule of Accreditation currently remain outside of our scope of accreditation. However, these tests have been validated to the same high standard as accredited tests and are performed by the same trained and competent staff.

For further test information, please visit the test database:

Protection of personal information - Laboratory Medicine comply with the Trust Data Protection policy and have procedures in place to allow the Directorate and its employees to comply with the Data Protection act  1998 and associated best practice and guidance.

For further information contact Louise Fallon, Quality Manager, 0121 424 1235