Misconception Handling Fecal Specimens

Fecal specimens are one of the most unpleasant samples to handle because of the fetid odor they emit. This is avoided by using proper personal equipment (PPE). A face mask is definitely needed because of this particular reason. Gloves and laboratory gowns are also properly worn.

There are several misconceptions concerning fecal specimens that you should be aware of. These are the following:

1. Fecal specimens with bacteria are considered abnormal.

It is normal that feces would contain a considerable amount of bacteria because the large intestine has a fairly large amount of bacteria. As the fecal specimen is stored and not preserved, the bacteria multiply rapidly. There are instances however when the presence of numerous amounts of bacilli coupled with pus cells should be reported.

2. A negative fecal specimen is always considered conclusive of the absence of parasites.

A series of samples should be collected from a person with diarrhea or mucoid feces. Sometimes the parasite may be few in number and could not be seen in a single specimen. Although concentration techniques are needed in cases like this, it is always good to have your fecal specimen examined twice or thrice. Collect pea sized portions where the feces appears mucoid, bloody or abnormal.

3. The amount of sample collected does not matter.

The amount of fecal specimen collected matters. Insufficient amount would render the result inaccurate. At least you should collect a pea or thumb size specimen. Collect the watery and bloody or mucoid portions as instructed above.

4. Only standard specimen containers could be used as sample receptacles for feces.

Wide-mouthed, sterile and dry bottles could serve as fecal containers. You could boil them to sterilize, cover them immediately and allow them to dry.

5. The method of collection does not matter as bacteria are present in the stool anyway.

The method of collection is always essential to the accuracy of results obtained. Proper collection should be observed by avoiding contamination from the environment (soil, urine, water, blood from other sources, etc) and by assuring that specimen bottles are clean and the appropriate amount is collected.

6. There is no need to have a fecal analysis if you never handled soil.

This is a wrong notion as parasites can contaminate you in so many ways. They can come from the water that you drink, from food that you eat, from the meat and even from the air. So, to be safe, you must have your feces examined annually.

Certain procedures are considered as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and should be followed to the letter.