Sample Advice

Recommended Types

Please note, the following list is for guidance only and is not intended to be exhaustive. We accept and test many different kinds of clinical sample including fresh and fixed tissue samples. If you are unsure of the appropriateness of a particular sample, please contact us before sending it. Please also note the following points.

  • Wherever possible, please send at least 200µl of liquid sample for testing unless otherwise stated.
  • ETDA blood tubes are best sent without delay.
  • Fresh blood in plain or gel tubes is best left at room temperature to clot.
Target Preferred Sample
Blood-borne viral infections
CD4 counts Please send at least 1ml of EDTA whole blood and ship at ambient temperature for next day delivery
HCV and HBV (including detection, quantitation, genotyping and resistance screening) Plasma or serum
HIV-1 proviral DNA or RNA (i.e. for primary diagnosis) EDTA whole blood
HIV-1 RNA Quantitation NB This test requires at least 1ml of sample. Blood should be taken into EDTA tubes. The plasma should be separated within 24 hours of blood collection and shipped at room temperature for next day delivery.
HIV-1 Anti-Retroviral drug resistance screening NB This test requires at least 500µl of sample. Blood should be taken into EDTA tubes. The plasma should be separated within 4 – 6 hours of blood collection and shipped at room temperature for next day delivery.
Respiratory infections
Respiratory viruses or bacteria Any respiratory specimen is acceptable e.g. sputum, BAL, NPA, nasopharyngeal swab etc.
Genitourinary infections  
Chlamydia/gonococcus (female) Endocervical swab + first pass urine*
Chlamydia/gonococcus (male) Urethral swab + first pass urine*
Chlamydia/gonococcus and HPV Endocervical swab sent in plain tube or ‘thin prep’ endocervical cellular specimens**
Herpes simplex infection Endocervical or vulval lesions: rub a dry swab over the area and return it to a plain DRY holder
Infections associated with post-transplant or immunocompromised patients
CMV or EBV DNA viral load EDTA whole blood or serum (plain or gel tube). EDTA is ideal but serum will be acceptable.
Adenovirus (quantitation) EDTA whole blood
Adenovirus (detection and genotyping) Any appropriate sample (please contact us if unsure)
Polyoma BK EDTA whole blood or urine
Polyoma JC EDTA whole blood, CSF or urine
Infections important in pregnancy
Parvovirus EDTA whole blood, amniotic fluid
Toxoplasma EDTA whole blood, amniotic fluid
CMV EDTA whole blood, amniotic fluid, cervical swab
Rubella EDTA whole blood, serum (for antibodies)
Measles EDTA whole blood, serum, urine, saliva, nasopharyngeal swab
HSV Vulval/vaginal swab
Intracellular organisms
Tropheryma whippelii Almost any cellular material is acceptable including EDTA whole blood. PLEASE DO NOT SEND SERUM.

* We will process specimens together as one for economy: the two separate sites of sampling increase the sensitivity of the test. We will also accept single samples.

** We are also able to arrange cytological preparation and review of thin preps. Please contact us for further information.


In all requests for testing, clinical information is an aid to laboratory diagnosis.

Please adhere to the standards set by both Clinical Pathology Accreditation (CPA) and good clinical practice for sample and form labelling, which should include a minimum of three of the following:

  • Full Name
  • Date of birth
  • The patient’s hospital number
  • Your laboratory’s reference

Additionally your request form must carry the following:

  • The full postal address of the originator
    (A hard copy of the results will be sent to this address on a weekly basis)
  • A contact telephone number
    (A contact name, or consultant’s name should also be supplied where possible)
  • A FAX number to which the results will be sent.
    (You may supply an e-mail address as an alternative for reporting results. Returns will be sent using encrypted, password protected pdf attachments)
  • We accept information on any locally available pathology form, or you can download a customisable form from this site.

Please ensure that the details on the specimen match those on the request form.


The packaging of clinical specimens whether using a courier service, or the Royal Mail, is based upon the principle of triple containment to prevent exposure to potential infection hazard. Please follow the instructions below for safe transportation of your samples.

The clinical material itself must be contained within

  1. a sealed specimen container which is placed within
  2. a sealed plastic specimen bag with sufficient absorbent wadding to soak up any fluid should a breakage occur. This must then be placed with the request form(s) in
  3. the outer screw-top plastic specimen carrier and the lid secured to form a seal. These are then placed within the outer shipping container (usually a cardboard box).

Appropriate labels for both destination and sender should be attached to this box. (We will supply mailing or Hays DX address labels, as appropriate, if you require them.)

Packaging materials will be returned for reuse if requested. (Standard postal rates will apply to this service.)

Please remember that it is the responsibility of the sender to comply with both domestic and/or international safety regulations.