When I was admitted to hospital I was told I had to have a rectal (back passage) swab to test for resistant bacteria. What does this mean and why was I tested?


A rectal swab test is common practice in the UK and is nothing to worry about. Bacteria are naturally in your gut and help to digest food and form part of your immune system. However, these bacteria can also cause infections if they get into a different part of your body, such as urinary tract infections. Increased use of antibiotics causes these gut bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. Normally, this causes no problem and is nothing to worry about – unless these resistant bacteria cause an infection.

The rectal swab test is a painless swab of your back passage to see if any of these resistant bacteria are living in your gut. If they are, you should be informed by your health professionals (nurses, doctors, etc.) and also given written information. Your healthcare team may also wear aprons and gloves and you may be moved to a single-occupancy room. This should not impact on the quality of care you receive. If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to speak to your healthcare team, or contact our Patient Support Service.