Virology Samples

Swabs for Virology Testing

Swabs used for virology testing are Copan eSwabs "flock" swabs with liquid amies medium. Swabs can be ordered from pathology supplies using Pathology Supplies Order form.

Viral sample tubes


See How to Sample page for Chlamydia advice

Specimen containers are provided with a general purpose flocked swab which once used should put into the clear medium and then snapped off at the break point before tightly refitting the lid (see diagram on packet).

These swabs and transport medium should be used in all other situations where a viral cause is suspected. Ensure requests are made specifically for viral culture. If M,C & S or routine culture is required a separate swab and request should be sent as testing is not valid for both tests on one sample and may lead to incorrect results. Tracheal aspirate or broncheo-aveolar lavage fluid can also be sent in universal containers (VTM not required).

Respiratory Virus Testing

Nasal and Throat swab for respiratory virus detection two swabs are required one supplied with the transport medium and the other provided separately. For adult testing, use a second general purpose flocked swab for the nasal swab. For paediatric testing a fine tipped swab is used as the nasal swab and the general purpose swab is used as the throat swab. Both swabs should be placed into one eSwab container (COPAN). A nasopharyngeal aspirate may also be sent in viral transport medium.

For influenza testing samples should reach the laboratory by 9:30am for same day testing

Genital Herpes Virus

Swabs for investigation of genital herpes should be sent in Copan eSwab. If eSwabs not available (for example in the community setting) then swabs may be sent dry inside the plastic sheath they are supplied in.

Vesicle fluids

Using the flock swab as described above for respiratory samples, swab the vesicle thoroughly to ensure cellular material and fluid is picked up from the base of the vesicle. Place the swab in Copan eSwab..


Swab samples can be kept a 2 - 27 degrees Celsius for up to 4 - 6 days.

Serological tests and tests based on whole blood samples

  • The serology/virology section most commonly carries out tests on serum or plasma blood samples. Before sending a blood sample check if you require a serum or plasma sample for the test you request. A list of tests is available In Serology and Molecular Test Repertoire in Microbiology User Manual
  • We carry out a variety of viral and bacterial diagnostics at the Old Medical School serology laboratory or refer them to reference laboratories. Please check our serum test repertoire on this website for more details on turnaround times and reference laboratories used.
  • As a general rule to help you decide which bottle/container to choose: Serum Samples For antibody detection tests (e.g. Blood borne virus serology, serology for respiratory viruses, CMV, HSV, VZV , Rubella etc) Plasma Samples For molecular tests (e.g. viral PCRs including HIV, Hepatitis B & C viral load, CMV, EBV viral load) Other Samples PLEASE RING IF UNSURE WHAT TO SEND (e.g. CSF for syphilis serology - send in sterile universal container, urine legionella or pneumococcal antigen - send urine in sterile universal)


    • Please check Serology and Molecular Test Repertoire in Microbiology User Manual for a full list of tests available. If you like to request a special test please discuss it with us. We might be able to find a laboratory that carries out the desired test and will pass on the cost to you as requester when we receive the invoice.
    • If you are still unclear about the correct tube or availability of a test having read through the above we will be happy to assist you further when you contact our laboratory.


      • Use provided transport bag usually combined with request form.
      • Samples should reach the laboratory within 24 hrs. If this is not possible refrigerate.
      • Samples for HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C PCR must be received in the laboratory within 24 hours or the result may not be valid.

      For further information, please see the Serology How to Sample page in this section.

Page Reviewed: 15/07/19 | Updated by: Kevin Roberts