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Fecal smear

Stool smear

Fecal smear is a laboratory test of a stool sample. This test is done to check for bacteria and parasites. Presence of organisms in stool shows diseases in the digestive tract.

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Lower digestive anatomy

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How the Test is Performed

A stool sample is needed.

There are many ways to collect the sample. You can collect the sample:

Do not mix urine, water, or toilet tissue with the sample.

For children wearing diapers:

Make sure you follow your provider's instructions for returning the sample. Return the sample to the lab as soon as possible.

The stool sample is sent to a lab where a small amount is placed on a slide. The slide is placed under a microscope and checked for the presence of bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. A stain may be placed on the sample that highlights certain germs under the microscope.

How to Prepare for the Test

There is no preparation needed.

How the Test will Feel

There is no discomfort.

Why the Test is Performed

Your provider may order this test if you have severe diarrhea that will not go away or that keeps returning. The test result may be used to select the correct antibiotic treatment.

Normal Results

A normal result means there are no disease-causing germs present.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different labs. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means that abnormal germs have been found in the stool sample. This may be due to an infection of the digestive tract.

Risks

There are no risks associated with a fecal smear.

Related Information

Diarrhea
Bacterial gastroenteritis

References

Beavis, KG, Charnot-Katsikas, A. Specimen collection and handling for diagnosis of infectious diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 64.

DuPont HL, Okhuysen PC. Approach to the patient with suspected enteric infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 267.

Hall GS, Woods GL. Medical bacteriology. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 58.

Siddiqi HA, Salwen MJ, Shaikh MF, Bowne WB. Laboratory diagnosis of gastrointestinal and pancreatic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 22.

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Review Date: 4/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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