Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and all specimens collected from sterile sites should have a microscopic examination performed along with culture. Bacteria found in CSF, blood, tissue, and specimens from other sterile sites are always significant.
CSF should be cytospun, if possible, to increase the chance of detecting a pathogen. The quantity of organisms seen and the amount and type of host cells, e.g., mononuclear or polymorphonuclear (PMN) white blood cells, is important to report. The presence of PMNs indicates bacterial infection. It is also important to determine and report whether the bacteria are found inside or outside of white blood cells.