High Risk Specimens

To comply with national Health and Safety guidance and to alert laboratory staff that a specimen may require processing differently, some specimens must be labelled as ‘High Risk' (Danger of Infection).

Clinical judgement must be used to label specimens correctly, and the onus for this is on the requestor.

Specimens from the following require “Danger of Infection” labelling:

  • Patients with proven infection with a Hazard Group 3 (HG3) pathogen eg: hepatitis B and C, HIV, tuberculosis and other mycobacteria, typhoid, brucella and anthrax
  • Patients suspected of having a HG3 pathogen (information from clinical history and examination e.g. injecting drug user, haemophiliac, vCJD)
  • Patients who are a part of an ongoing outbreak caused by a HG3 pathogen.
  • Inmates of Her Majesties' Prisons

On no account should specimens be taken from patients suspected of having any pathogen in Hazard Group 4, e.g. viral haemorrhagic fever (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola and Congo-Crimean), or Hendra or Nipah viruses without prior consultation with the on-call medical microbiologist/virologist.

Handling “Danger of Infection” specimens

Danger of Infection” labels should have black print on a yellow ground, and should be self adhesive.

A label must be placed on the high-risk specimen container and its request form, which must give sufficient clinical information to enable the experienced laboratory staff who will receive it to know what special precautions are necessary in the laboratory. The request form may be folded so that the information need not be conspicuous to other people, but the “Danger of Infection” label must be clearly visible.

The specimen container must be placed in an individual transparent plastic bag, which should then be sealed. High Risk specimens must not be transported to the laboratory via the air tube.

Further information

This is is available from LTH Infection Control


Page updated: 24/01/14 | Updated by: Tracey Wainwright

Cellular Pathology High Risk Specimens Links