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HSL Virology specimens

See the main Tests section for general information on ordering tests, and specimen collection, packaging and transport.


The specimen must be labelled with the patient details as on the request form.

Please ensure that electronically created barcodes are placed down the length of the specimen container, not wrapped round it.

Please note that unlabelled samples, or samples with insufficient unique identifiers cannot be processed and will be discarded. Sex cannot be used as a unique identifier.


Blood should be taken either without anticoagulant (for general serology) or with the appropriate anticoagulant (for most molecular testing; see below). Please contact the laboratory if you are uncertain about the appropriate blood container.

Swabs for virological investigations should be placed immediately in viral transport medium (VTM). Do not use charcoal or microbiology swabs. Please use the VTM provided in the NPS (3ml) and universal viral swab packs (2ml).

Other specimens are collected in generic sterile containers available in wards and clinics or from central stores.

Transport to the Laboratory

Biological Substances; Category A infectious substances must be assigned to UN 2814 or UN 2900, as appropriate, Category B, Clinical Specimens, Diagnostic Specimens, UN 3373

All specimens should be in individual bags to protect them from external contamination.

Key Factors affecting the performance of the test/interpretation of the results

  • Haemolysed, lipaemic and out of date sample containers may give inaccurate test results. EDTA Bloods for HIV Viral Load should be received in the lab within 6 hours of blood collection.
  • Heavy blood contaminated CSF may produce results that do not reflect the content of the CSF, but rather what is present in the blood.
  • Insufficient sample volume in the STI Aptima tube.