Sputum specimens from culture-positive tuberculosis patients were examined for the presence of Myobacterium tuberculosis on container surfaces. Although specimens were in transit for several days, M tuberculosis was isolated from 18 (6.5%) of 279 containers examined. Sputum specimens from local patients were examined for evidence of upper respiratory bacterial flora on the outside of containers as an indicator of contamination with sputum. Of 300 containers examined, 41 (14%) were contaminated. A technique for disinfecting specimen containers from tuberculosis patients has been evaluated and recommendations are made for handling sputum containers.
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