02/01/2020: Lab Alert: Updated Specimen Submission Information for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

CDC's Laboratory Outreach Communication System (LOCS)

Audience: Clinical Laboratory Professionals

Level: Laboratory Alert

Submitting Specimens from Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for 2019-nCoV Testing

At this time, diagnostic testing for 2019-nCoV can only be conducted at CDC. Healthcare providers should contact their local/state health department immediately to notify them about patients under investigation (PUIs) for 2019-nCoV. State health departments that have identified a PUI should immediately contact CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 770-488-7100 and complete a PUI case investigation form, found on the Interim Guidance for Healthcare Professionals MERS page. Clinical laboratories should NOT attempt viral isolation from specimens collected from 2019-nCoV PUIs.

Specimens from PUIs should be coordinated through the local/state health department and the local/state public health laboratory for shipment to CDC. When submitting specimens from PUIs, include appropriate patient identifiers on the test requisition and the specimen container. Label each specimen container with

  • CDC nCoV number
  • The patient’s ID number (e.g., medical record number)
  • Unique specimen ID (e.g., laboratory requisition number)
  • Specimen type (e.g., serum)
  • Number of samples
  • Date the sample(s) was collected

The CDC Form 50.34 must be completed for each specimen submitted and should be coordinated with the local/state health department and the local/state public health laboratory. Result reporting processes will be delayed if the submitter overwrites the public health laboratory submission email. After selecting the specimen origin, the submitter should utilize the drop-down menu for the STATE PHL block to select submitter information. Please do not edit or alter any information that is populated after selecting the Institution name. Do not edit the Institutional email field. You may manually add a point of contact (POC) as well as a POC email address. In the STATE PHL block, include the “CDC nCoV number” on the PUI form in the blue shaded field as the Alternate Patient ID. The “CDC nCoV number” should also be included in the CDC Form 50.34.

For initial diagnostic testing for 2019-nCoV, CDC recommends collecting and testing upper respiratory (nasopharyngeal AND oropharyngeal swabs), and lower respiratory (sputum, if possible) for those patients with productive coughs. Induction of sputum is not indicated. Specimens should be collected as soon as possible once a PUI is identified, regardless of the time of symptom onset. See Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Additional Resources

If you have any questions, please contact us at LOCS@cdc.gov.

Laboratory Outreach Communication System | Division of Laboratory Systems (DLS)

Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services (CSELS)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



Page last reviewed: March 20, 2020