The critical role of the microbiology laboratory in infectious disease diagnosis calls for a close, positive working relationship between the physician and the microbiologists who provide enormous value to the health care team. This document, developed by both laboratory and clinical experts, provides information on which tests are valuable and in which contexts, and on tests that add little or no value for diagnostic decisions. Sections are divided into anatomic systems, including Bloodstream Infections and Infections of the Cardiovascular System, Central Nervous System Infections, Ocular Infections, Soft Tissue Infections of the Head and Neck, Upper Respiratory Infections, Lower Respiratory Tract infections, Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract, Intraabdominal Infections, Bone and Joint Infections, Urinary Tract Infections, Genital Infections, and Skin and Soft Tissue Infections; or into etiologic agent groups, including Tickborne Infections, Viral Syndromes, and Blood and Tissue Parasite Infections. Each section contains introductory concepts, a summary of key points, and detailed tables that list suspected agents; the most reliable tests to order; the samples (and volumes) to collect in order of preference; specimen transport devices, procedures, times, and temperatures; and detailed notes on specific issues regarding the test methods, such as when tests are likely to require a specialized laboratory or have prolonged turnaround times. There is redundancy among the tables and sections, as many agents and assay choices overlap. The document is intended to serve as a reference to guide physicians in choosing tests that will aid them to diagnose infectious diseases in their patients.
Keywords: laboratory diagnosis; medical laboratories; microbiology testing; physician-laboratory communication; specimen processing.