Microbiology and Infectious Disease


Microbiology lab services, the clinical laboratory within Lifespan Laboratories that provides diagnostic microbiology, has an international reputation for excellence. The microbiology laboratories provide traditional microbiology with routine culture and sensitivity testing. Site of culture is a critical part of our testing services, as the highly-trained microbiology staff works to evaluate the culture results compared to the normal flora for that site.

Our laboratory provides microbiology testing results for over 500,000 patient specimens each year. Many of the diagnostic tests we perform are not available in other laboratories, and some samples are referred to the laboratory for additional testing. Guidelines for sample collection are available in the laboratory specimen collection guideline

For emergencies or special requests, the lab may be contacted at 401-444-5273 (Valerie Whitehead, manager). Questions about laboratory testing for inpatients may be directed to the on-site laboratories at Rhode Island Hospital (401-444-5273), The Miriam Hospital (401-793-4235), or Newport Hospital (401-845-1265).

Infectious Disease Molecular Diagnostics

Infectious disease molecular diagnostics is a section of the laboratory that provides comprehensive detection and viral-load calculations using the most advanced methods to detect bacterial and viral DNA sequences. Commonly ordered tests include CSF enterovirus PCR, hepatitis B viral load, HCV detection or genotyping C. difficile PCR, throat swab detection of Strep Group A, respiratory viral panel, rapid influenza PCR, bacterial vaginosis, herpes types I and II PCR of CSF, and HIV viral load testing.

For emergencies or special requests, the lab may be contacted by phone at 401-444-5273 (Roberta Dickenson, manager).

Medical Leadership

The laboratory is directed by Kimberle Chapin, MD and April Bobenchik, PhD. With special expertise in clinical microbiology, Chapin and Bobenchik are nationally-recognized authorities in laboratory testing in infectious disease. They are conducting current translational research aimed at making the most advanced methods and testing services available to patients throughout our region. They are available for consultation on complex questions or best-testing strategies by phone at 401-793-4242 or 800-980-4244. In emergencies, they may be contacted through the Rhode Island page operator.

How Fast Will I Get My Results?

The turnaround time is different for different tests. It may be as little as a few hours or a week or more. For cultures, preliminary reports of “no growth” are updated regularly, but an organism may be detected several days later. Test results are available most rapidly electronically, but may also be delivered by fax, e-mail or mailed written report, when desired.

More information for Lifespan staff: Microbiology intranet site (Lifespan log-in required)