Isolating and identifying bacteria (human health)


In this module you will learn about microbiology techniques for identifying bacteria, focusing on WHO priority pathogens which are the focus of the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS). You will start by looking at the diverse types of clinical samples sent to microbiology laboratories and factors that can impact the testing of samples and reporting of test results. Basic tests used routinely in laboratories to isolate and identify bacteria are discussed next, followed by newer and/or more advanced methods usually performed by reference laboratories. Finally, you will be introduced to Quality Control (QC) measures that should be implemented in the clinical microbiology laboratory to ensure that test results are reliable and accurate. You will learn more about quality measures in the Quality assurance and AMR surveillance module.

Basic knowledge of concepts such as bacterial growth and bacterial structure is assumed. If you are unfamiliar with these concepts or would like a refresher course, you might want to look back at the Introducing antimicrobial resistance module or this Microbioloby textbook [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (OpenStax, 2021). Information about the GLASS programme can be found in the Introducing AMR surveillance systems module.

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • know where samples are obtained from and reflect on the process by which bacterial samples are processed in your workplace
  • describe the principles of laboratory tests used to isolate and identify key bacterial pathogens in human health, which are the focus of the GLASS programme
  • know when and why advanced testing such as mass spectrometry and automated systems are used
  • know the importance of procedures designed to ensure the quality of laboratory work relating to isolating and identifying bacteria in your workplace.

Activity 1: Assessing your skills and knowledge

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Before you begin this module, you should take a moment to think about the learning outcomes and how confident you feel about your knowledge and skills in these areas. Do not worry if you do not feel very confident in some skills – they may be areas that you are hoping to develop by studying these modules.

Now use the interactive tool to rate your confidence in these areas using the following scale:

  • 5 Very confident
  • 4 Confident
  • 3 Neither confident nor not confident
  • 2 Not very confident
  • 1 Not at all confident

This is for you to reflect on your own knowledge and skills you already have.

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1 Principles of sampling and specimen collection