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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

AlertCoronavirus / COVID-19

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General specimen requirement information

Cytogenetics sample requirements Molecular genetics sample requirements

Samples must be labelled with:

  • patient's full name (surname / family name and given/individual name)
  • date of birth and unique NHS/hospital number
  • date of collection.

Sample handling and storage

  • All samples should be sent directly to the laboratory to arrive as soon as possible after collection, i.e. hospital transport, first class post, courier service etc.
  • All samples, with the exception of NIPD samples, can be stored overnight at +4oC if there is an unavoidable delay between sample collection and dispatch. NIPD samples should be kept at room temperature.
  • Please DO NOT FREEZE blood samples.

    Sample packaging

    Samples must be packaged to comply with PI650, for Category B biological substances as described by the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR; applicable as from 01/01/2017)

    This applies to all samples sent by post or courier.

    Summary of Packing Instruction 650 (PI650)

    Packaging comprises 3 components.

    • Pathological specimens must be in a securely sealed watertight primary container i.e. a sample tube.
    • Specimen tubes should then be sealed in a leak-proof secondary container (i.e. plastic container or specimen bag), along with sufficient absorbent material to absorb the entire contents of the container in the event of leakage or damage
    • The secondary container and the referral paperwork are then securely cushioned within a rigid outer packaging, such as a strong cardboard box/Jiffy bag for postal samples or a transport box for South Central Ambulance Transport services. This outer package should have at least one surface of minimum dimension 100 mm x 100 mm. 
    • The outer package should be clearly labelled "UN3373, Biological substance Category B". (Extracted DNA does not need to be labelled UN3373)


    High risk samples (hazardous biological agents)

    For samples known/likely to be infected with hazardous biological agents (hazard group 3 or above, e.g. HIV, Hepatitis B/C, prions):

    • The nature of the risk must be clearly marked on the referral card.
    • The sample tube should be clearly labelled, e.g. Danger of Infection tape, to indicate the high risk nature.
    • Samples known/likely to be infected with hazard group 3 biological agents that are not listed in Annex 1 (may be handled at less than the minimum containment conditions) of the ACDP Approved List of biological agents, e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB), CANNOT be processed by the laboratory.
    • If information regarding hazardous biological agents becomes available after a sample is referred to the laboratory, then the laboratory must be informed immediately.

    Inappropriate samples

    The following samples will NOT be accepted by the Genetics Laboratory:

    • Clotted blood samples
    • Lithium heparin samples for Molecular Genetics analysis - this is due to risk of failure or false positive results for some analyses. Lithium heparin samples ARE REQUESTED for karyotype analysis
    • Inadequately labelled samples - when it has not been possible to confirm the patient of origin.
    • Inadequately packaged samples, including damaged or leaking samples.


  • Last updated:10 August 2020 by Claire Scott.