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Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology (DHCPP)

Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch (BSPB) - Zoonoses and Select Agent Laboratory (ZSAL)

Laboratory Activities

The Zoonoses and Select Agent Laboratory (ZSAL) of the Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch (BSPB) provides a variety of reference activities for the following bacteria:

  • Bacillus anthracis
    • Detection and isolation
    • Culture identification and genotyping
    • Serology
  • Leptospira spp. (including but not limited to L. interrogans)
    • Detection and isolation
    • Culture identification and genotyping
    • Serology
    • Serotyping
  • Brucella spp. (including but not limited to B. abortus, B. canis, B. melitensis, B. suis)
    • Detection and isolation
    • Culture identification and genotyping
    • Serology (B. canis and B. abortus RB51 serology currently not available)
  • Burkholderia spp.(including B. mallei, B. pseudomallei)
    • Detection and isolation
    • Culture identification and genotyping
    • Serology

Those working with Burkholderia specimen should be sure to follow recommendations for management of accidental laboratory exposure to Burkholderia psuedomallei and B. mallei.


All isolates and specimens for analysis by ZSAL should be sent and processed through the state public health laboratory. All bacterial isolates being sent for culture identification, except Leptospira spp., should be grown on solid media in tightly sealed containers (e.g. slants).Leptospira spp. should be grown in semi-solid EMJH and shipped tightly sealed.

Serum samples for serological testing should be sent in pairs, including an acute (≤7 days after symptom onset) and a convalescent-phase (14–35 days after symptom onset) specimen. It is recommended that the convalescent-phase specimen be taken 2 weeks after the acute specimen. Serum samples should be sent in a Sarstedt 2 ml microtube with an O-ring in the lid (Catalog Number #72.694.006) or the equivalent. Sera for anthrax serology should be sent frozen. Sera sent for other diseases can be sent refrigerated, however, if the sample was previously frozen, it should be sent frozen. Whole blood samples should NOT be sent for serological testing.

PCR samples should be acute whole blood (≤4 days post symptom onset) collected in tubes containing any anticoagulant EXCEPT heparin, or urine collected in a sterile specimen container ≥7 days post symptom onset. Samples for PCR should be frozen as soon as possible after collection and shipped on dry ice.

Samples should be sent through the CDC DASH system and should be accompanied by the specimen submission form (DASH Form 50.34). Samples sent for serology or Leptospira spp. testing should be addressed to DASH unit 22. Samples sent for culture, identification, or PCR testing of B. anthracis, Burkholderia spp., and Brucella spp. should be addressed to DASH unit 91. Select Agent forms may be required for these samples; see below for select agent shipping and reporting requirements.

More information is available on Recommended Specimens Needed for Testing for Anthrax and for Collecting, Preparing, and Shipping Serum Samples.

The shipping address for the DASH system is:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Data & Specimen Handling Section (DASH)
Mailstop G12
1600 Clifton Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Select Agents

Confirmed isolates of select agents sent for further characterization require an approved Form 2 from the National Select Agent Registry (NSAR) prior to shipping. Also, confirmed isolates of select agents identified in a clinical or diagnostic lab must be reported via Form 4. See the NSAR website for the rules, regulations, and forms for transferring and reporting select agents.

Additional Information

If additional information is needed about the reference activities performed at ZSAL, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO or 1-800-232-4636.

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