What is the “Skin Swab”?
Although skin is home to many different microbial species, it is not the most hospitable place for most microorganisms, due to its dryness and relative saltiness. A skin swab is a way to sample the microbes living on the skin. As doctors typically are only interested in the bacteria, viruses or fungi that cause infection, a patient does not usually have healthy skin swabbed, just the infected areas.
Swabs for use in microbiology are typically bits of material that are completely sterile. The material of the swabs may be on the end of a long handle for the medical professional to hold. Different types of swabs exist, but they all perform the same function, which is to be rubbed over a surface in order to remove biological substances of interest. Swabs for skin are typically for picking up microbes, whereas some other types of swabs, such as cervical swabs, are designed to collect cells from the patient.