Word of the Week: Culture

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say itCulture (cull-t-yer)

What it means: Growing organisms or tissues to study them.

Where it comes from: From Latin, cultura, "growing, cultivated land"

Proteus mirabilis culture.

John J. Farmer/CDC/Wikicommons

Where you might see or hear it: If you have an infection, your provider can order a type of test that figures out what germs are causing it. A sample of your blood, spit, or another fluid is taken to a lab. The lab technicians can put it in something that would help the germs grow.

There are different types of germs that cause infections, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Cultures can help your provider figure out which one is making you sick as well as find the best treatment.

When you might want to use it: If you're diagnosed with an infection that you might have spread to someone else, you could explain that the results of your test (culture) showed that a specific germ is in your body.

You might have to tell a person that they could also have the germ because you may have given it to them. One example is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

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