In recent decades there has been an increase in knowledge of the distribution, species diversity and growth patterns of bacteria in human chronic infections. This has challenged standard diagnostic methods, which have undergone a development to both increase the accuracy of testing as well as to decrease the occurrence of contamination. In particular, the introduction of new technologies based on molecular techniques into the clinical diagnostic process has increased detection and identification of infectious pathogens. Sampling is the first step in the diagnostic process, making it crucial for obtaining a successful outcome. However, sampling methods have not developed at the same speed as molecular identification. The heterogeneous distribution and potentially small number of pathogenic bacterial cells in chronic infected tissue makes sampling a complicated task, and samples must be collected judiciously and handled with care. Clinical sampling is a step in the diagnostic process that may benefit from innovative methods based on current knowledge of bacteria present in chronic infections. In the present review, we describe and discuss different aspects that complicate sampling of chronic infections. The purpose is to survey representative scientific work investigating the presence and distribution of bacteria in chronic infections in relation to various clinical sampling methods.