Test Catalog

Test ID: ANAE    
Bacterial Culture, Anaerobic, Varies

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Diagnosing anaerobic bacterial infections

Testing Algorithm Delineates situations when tests are added to the initial order. This includes reflex and additional tests.

When this test is ordered, the reflex tests may be performed at an additional charge.

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Anaerobic bacteria are the greatest component of the human body's normal bacterial flora colonizing the skin, oral cavity, and genitourinary and lower gastrointestinal tracts and generally do not cause infection. Their presence is important for vitamin and other nutrient absorption and in preventing infection with pathogenic bacteria.


When usual skin and mucosal barriers are penetrated as well as in an anaerobic environment, these bacteria can behave as pathogens. Typical anaerobic infections include periodontitis, abdominal or pelvic abscesses, endometritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, aspiration pneumonia, empyema and lung abscesses, sinusitis, brain abscesses, gas gangrene, and other soft tissue infections.


Anaerobes grow aggressively in the body under anaerobic conditions and may possess a variety of virulence factors including capsules and extracellular enzymes. They also can develop resistance to antimicrobials by producing beta-lactamase and other modifying enzymes as well as by alterations in membrane permeability and structure of penicillin-binding proteins. Because anaerobic bacteria are a significant cause of human infection and are often resistant to commonly used antimicrobials, susceptibility testing results are useful to clinicians. Bacteroides and Parabacteroides species produce beta-lactamases. Ertapenem, metronidazole, and clindamycin are generally effective agents although resistance to clindamycin, and occasionally ertapenem, is increasing.

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

No growth

Identification of probable pathogens

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Isolation of anaerobes in significant numbers from well-collected specimens including blood, other normally sterile body fluids, or closed collections of purulent fluid, indicates infection with the identified organisms.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

Specimens should be collected by needle and syringe aspiration or surgical drainage to avoid contamination with normal-flora anaerobes; such contamination would make interpretation of culture results impossible.


Specimens must be transported in anaerobic transport vials.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Summanen P, Baron EJ, Citron DM, et al: Wadsworth Anaerobic Bacteriology Manual. 6th ed. Star Publishing Co; 2002

2. Schuetz AN, Carpenter DE: Susceptibility test methods: anaerobic bacteria. In: Carroll KC, Pfaller MA, eds. Manual of Clinical Microbiology. 12th ed. ASM Press; 2019:1377-1397

3. Hall GS: Anaerobic bacteriology. In: Leber AL, ed. Clinical Microbiology Procedures Handbook. Vol 1. 4th ed. ASM Press; 2016:chap 44

Special Instructions Library of PDFs including pertinent information and forms related to the test