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All users of these laboratory services are advised to refer to “Transport of Infectious Substances – Best Practice Guidance for Microbiology Laboratories” on the website for up to date information on the correct procedures for submitting samples.

All specimens should be transported to the laboratory as rapidly as possible after collection to avoid compromising results. Specimens may be transported via normal portering rounds/transport arrangements during the normal working day. When bacteriology and virology tests are to be performed, on the same specimen, a separate specimen for each laboratory is preferred to ensure timely receipt and processing in each laboratory.

Non-urgent specimens collected outside routine laboratory working hours may be stored overnight in the refrigerator, with the exception of blood cultures. Blood cultures should never be refrigerated but sent directly to the laboratory reception. Please contact the laboratory if there are specific questions regarding transportation of specimens.

In the unlikely event of a spillage during transport to the laboratory, porters know to call the domestic helpdesk, as all domestic staff are trained to handle clinical spillages. All risk assessments/protocols are available on

Bactex FX40 glass bottles for Mycobacteria should be transported by porter and should not be used in the pod system.

Urgent samples

If a result is required urgently and the sample will arrive during working hours the laboratory MUST be notified by telephone so that we can prioritise your request.

The result will be phoned through to the requesting doctor so please ensure that contact details are provided on the request form.

Samples submitted out of hours (on call)

Urgent samples: MFT

Urgent specimens out of hours should not be sent before agreement with the laboratory on-call staff. Any specimens sent as urgent without prior agreement will be processed routinely. If you need to submit a sample out of normal working hours for testing on-call please contact the Biomedical Scientist on-call via the hospital switchboard (0161 276 1234).

Urgent specimens must be sent to the laboratory immediately and arrangements made with the portering service.  All samples should be packaged and transported as above.

Urgent samples: From Wythenshawe, Trafford, The Christie and other partner hospitals

Urgent specimens out of hours should not be sent before agreement with the laboratory on-call staff. If you need to submit a sample out of normal working hours for testing on-call please contact the Biomedical Scientist on-call via the hospital switchboard (0161 276 1234).

The BMS on-call will notify MFT Autolab reception staff that an urgent sample is being transported to MFT and an estimated time of arrival will be given. The requesting hospital is responsible for packaging the urgent sample and arranging the taxi / courier service. The taxi driver / courier service will deliver the sample directly to MFT autolab reception; this should be made clear to the driver by the requesting hospital.

MFT autolab reception is accessed via the main entrance to the Clinical Sciences Building; out of hours access is granted by security after identifying yourself using the intercom. The autolab reception staff will notify the Microbiology BMS when the sample has arrived and the Microbiology BMS will collect and process the sample.

Outbreak samples

In addition to its clinical diagnostic microbiology role, the UKHSA lead laboratory in Manchester provides a range of public health microbiology services.

These include:

  • A full range of tests to investigate any event or outbreak of possible public health significance in the community
  • Advice on the best diagnostic strategies to be adopted
  • Advice on interpretation of test results and additional investigations that may be helpful
  • Support to incident/outbreak investigation teams
  • Prompt communication of results in agreement within published turnaround times
  • Follow up/clearance testing of patients or contacts of patients in whom organisms of public health importance are detected.
  • Support for trusts/HPUs in the specialist investigation of health care associated infection

The laboratory is able to deal with samples from outbreaks arising in primary or secondary care and there is a single notification system in place to inform the laboratory of all types of outbreaks e.g. respiratory, enteric.

More detailed information can be found in the Public Health Microbiology User Services Handbook (including the outbreak request referral form).

Packaging of high risk samples

High-risk groups can include patients suffering or thought to be suffering from:

  • HIV infection
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • E.coli O157
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB)
  • Salmonella typhi (Typhoid fever)
  • Coccidioides immitis
  • All other Hazard Group 3 and 4 organisms (Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens)
  • I.V. drug-use
  • Patients who have had recent foreign travel with unexplained high pyrexia

NB. Specimens MUST be labelled with “Danger of Infection” stickers on the specimen, bag and form. The form must be folded to ensure confidentiality. The specimen must be sealed in the plastic transport bag. The specimen must then be placed in a secondary biohazard plastic bag and sealed.

To protect all health care workers requests for investigations on high risk samples should be the minimum required for diagnosis and good management. Great care must be taken in obtaining specimens, and equipment such as needles and blades must be immediately disposed of safely, in approved sharps boxes. Should a spillage of blood, fluids or tissue occur this should be made safe and disposed of, no matter what the risk to the patient.

See also Viral haemorrhagic fever: ACDP algorithm and guidance on management of patients.


(Last reviewed March 2023)