Clinics and Departments

Laboratory Services

Lab Dept:


Test Name:


General Information

Lab Order Codes:



Acid-Fast Stain; TB Stain; Atypical Mycobacterium Smear; Mycobacterium Smear

CPT Codes:

87206 – Smear, primary source with interpretation; fluorescent and/or acid fast stain for bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses or cell types

Test Includes:

Screen of unconcentrated material for acid-fast bacilli performed at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of MN. Specimen will be referred to the Minnesota Department of Health for acid-fast culture and concentrated smear. All positive results are reported immediately by phone to the physician or patient’s nurse.


Lab Testing Sections:


Phone Numbers:

MIN: 612-813-5866

STP: 651-220-6555

Test Availability:

Daily, 0700 - 1530

Turnaround Time:

24 hours

Special Instructions:

● For diagnosis, an acid-fast culture must also be ordered.
Specific site and date/time of collection are required for specimen processing.
● Swabs are unacceptable for Direct AFB smear exam.


Specimen Type:

The appropriate specimen for an acid-fast smear is the same as for culture; except when the specimen is a body fluid, CSF or urine. Because of the acellular nature of these specimens, they must be concentrated and will not be performed at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of MN laboratory. Refer to AFB Culture for details.

Specimens may include aspirates (abscess), bronchial wash, gastric aspiration, skin, sputum, tissue, and stool.


Sterile container


Refer to AFB Culture for collection information.


Onsite collections: Transport to the laboratory immediately.

Offsite collections:
Specimens must be promptly transported to the laboratory with the next available courier, not to exceed 24 hours from the time of collection.

Sample Rejection:

Specimen received on a swab; improperly labeled specimen; specimens with prolonged transit time (see Transport/Storage for requirements); specimen not submitted in appropriate transport container; insufficient volume; external contamination; 24 hour urines; 24 hour sputum collections. If an unacceptable specimen is received, the physician or nursing station will be notified and another specimen requested before discarding the specimen.


Reference Range:

No acid-fast organisms seen

Critical Values:

Positive AFB smears will be called to the physician or patient’s nurse.


Cultures are more sensitive than smears, therefore, negative acid-fast smears do not exclude a diagnosis of mycobacterial disease. A positive acid-fast smear without concentration requires a very active infection. Acid-fast stains are not specific for M. tuberculosis; other species in the genus Mycobacterium will stain acid-fast, and other organisms will occasionally stain acid-fast (eg, Nocardia sp, Legionella micdadei, Rhodococcus equi). Immunocompromised individuals (eg, those who are HIV positive) may have infection by organisms of the Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare complex (MAC). Definitive identification can only be accomplished by culture and subsequent phenotypic or genotypic characterization. Occasional strains of rapidly growing mycobacteria may not be acid-fast by fluorochrome stains.


Auramine-rhodamine stain


Cook, JH, and M Pezzlo (1992). Specimen receipt and accessioning. Section 1. Aerobic bacteriology, 1.2.1-4. In HD Isenberg (ed) Clinical Microbiology Procedures Handbook. American Society for Microbiology, Washington DC

Miller, J Michael (1999) A Guide To Specimen Management in Clinical Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, Washington DC

Miller, J Michael, and HT Holmes (1999) Specimen Collection, Transport, and Storage In PR Murray et al, (ed), Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 7th edition, American Society for Microbiology, Washington DC, pp 33-104


10/15/12: Removed notification of Infection Prevention for positive results. Swabs are no longer accepted for this testing.
2/17/14: Updated Specimen Type and Sample Rejection sections.
11/10/14: Added offsite collections.

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