University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sample Handling and Preparation

Our lab operates at Biosafety Level 2 and utilizes general precautions for control of pathogen exposure. The following guidelines deal mostly with samples from non-human primates.

Sending Samples for Analysis

Several agencies set regulations for shipping hazardous goods, for example, the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United Nations (UN) and others.

Shipping samples involves assessing the samples for the likelihood of pathogens. There are lists available separating an organism/pathogen into a risk group. We advise consulting the lists provided by these organizations.

In general, samples that are cultures of certain pathogens usually ship as infectious substance.

For samples originating within the USA:

All samples shipped to us must meet DOT/IATA/ICAO hazardous materials requirements. General guidelines are given in the table below.

For samples originating from outside the USA:

Contact the CDC, (Tel. 404-639-3235 Fax 404-639-2294) to complete an application and obtain a permit first (about 10 days) then follow the same guidelines for samples originating within the USA.

Further information:

  1. DOT info line 1-800-467-4922
  2. CDC – Biosafety Home
  3. PHMSA
  4. IATA DG info 1-800-716-6326

Deciding on Packaging and Shipping:

Samples may fall under “biological substance”, “infectious substance”, “GMO” (genetically modified microorganism) or “not regulated” category.

For samples containing the chemical ethanol

IF the samples fall under “infectious substance” category AND contain more than 24% ethanol, additional regulations apply for shipping. They would then be designated as class-III flammable, maximum of 2.5-L for glass and 5.0-L for plastic. Fill in DG declaration as: “Ethanol, 3, UN ID#1170, PGIII, LTD. QTY”, IN ADDITION to “infectious substance” packing instructions.

IF the samples fall under “biological substance” category AND contain more than 24 % ethanol then they may be shipped as “Dangerous Goods In Excepted Quantities” with an Excepted Quantities” label instead of a DG declaration. The inner containers can have 30-mL ethanol max. and outer/secondary container can have 1-L ethanol max.

Biological Substance Category B (UN3373)

Typical non-human primate samples of blood, serum, plasma, urine, feces (see “Additional guidelines for fecal samples“), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and saliva are considered to be “biological substances” and therefore should be packaged according to IATA PI650, summarized in the table below. If dry ice is used, then IATA PI904 regulations apply also.

Infectious Substance

When samples are known to be in the “infectious substance” category–follow the more specific instructions. If dry ice is used then IATA PI904 regulations apply also. Our lab advises that you check the complete requirements of IATA PI602 for your infectious substance.

Step Biological Substance, Cat.B (UN3373) PI650 Solid CO2/Dry Ice PI904 Infectious Substance (UN2814 or UN2900) PI602
1 Place sample in a leakproof primary receptacle or vial. Vial caps must be sealed with tape. The volume must be 1L or less. If shipped by ground–not regulated, else it must be put in a container that allows the release of pressure and prevents rupture. Prepare a Dangerous Goods (DG) Declaration. Packaging must be UN certified. Place sample in a leakproof primary receptacle or vial. Vial caps must be sealed with tape.
2 Sample vial is then placed in a leakproof secondary packaging. Examples of secondary packaging are: plastic canister, sealed plastic bag, sealed styrofoam, screw cap can. Total volume of samples must be 4L or less. Place the dry ice outside the secondary packaging. Sample vial is then placed in a leakproof secondary packaging. Examples of secondary packaging are: plastic canister, sealed plastic bag, sealed styrofoam, screw cap can.
3 Place absorbent material between primary receptacle and secondary packaging. Examples of absorbent material are: cellulose wadding, cotton balls, paper towels, commercial absorbent packets. Mark the net weight of the solid dry ice on the outside of the package in kilograms. Place absorbent material between primary receptacle and secondary packaging. Examples of absorbent material are: cellulose wadding, cotton balls, paper towels, commercial absorbent packets.
4 Place the above in an outer packaging. Examples are corrugated cardboard box, wood box, rigid plastic cooler, rigid plastic box. Side of box must not be less than 100 mm. For infectious substances (column on right):

  • Declare the dry ice on the Dangerous Goods (DG) label with complete shipping name and UN ID# UN1845.
  • Use a Class 9 Miscellaneous DG label.
Place the above in an outer packaging. Examples are corrugated cardboard box, wood box, rigid plastic cooler, rigid plastic box.
5 Enclose an itemized list of contents between the secondary packaging and outer packaging. N/A Enclose an itemized list of contents between the secondary packaging and outer packaging.
6 Place a UN3373 diamond shaped sticker on outside of box. If air waybill is used, under Nature and Quantity of goods write Biological Substance, cat.B UN3373. N/A Write the Name and Telephone number of person responsible for shipment on outside of package.
7 Place the OSHA Biohazard Label on the outside of the package. N/A Place:

  1. OSHA Biohazard Label on the inside of the package.
  2. DOT/IATA Infectious Label and the CDC Etiologic Agents/Biomedical Material Label on the outside of the package.

Tips for Handling and Preparation of Typical Samples

vial

  1. Choose a suitable vial.
  2. Collection vial must be sealed to prevent leakage and contamination.
  3. We prefer polypropylene or similar vials–some options are:
    • Fisher 1-800-766-7000, cat# 14-375-150, case of 500
    • PI 1-800-323-9814, cat#163262, case of 500
  4. Choose packaging to contain the vials, dry ice if needed and universal “biohazard” stickers.
  5. Biohazard and other stickers available from: