National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Biospecimen Program

What is the Biospecimen Program?

Developed to address future medical, environmental, and public health issues challenging our nation, the stored biospecimen program is a collection of serum, plasma, urine, and DNA specimens that are readily available and can be used by researchers.

Data produced from research using NHANES biospecimens are added to the NHANES database and made available to the public.

*The NHANES biospecimen program is featured in a new report by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, a group of more than a dozen Federal departments and agencies which have made the strategic decision to indefinitely retain and preserve collections of physical objects from federal research based on their potential value for future use


What Types of Biospecimens Are Available?

Biospecimens have been collected from NHANES participants since 1988 and are categorized as the following:  pristine serum, and urine (i.e., immediately frozen for storage and has not gone through a freeze-thaw cycle); surplus serum and plasma (i.e., after laboratory testing completed, the residual sample is stored) or DNA.

Biospecimen availability by type and NHANES survey cycle
NHANES Cycle Pristine Surplus DNA
Sera Urine Sera Plasma
III(1988-1994) X X X
1999-2000 X X X X X
2001-2002 X X X X X
2003-2004 X X X
2005-2006 X X X
2007-2008 X X X X
2009-2010 X X X X
2011-2012 X X X X
2013-2014 X X X
2015-2016 X X X
2017-2018 X X X

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2020.


More Information and How to Access the Biospecimens


Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use NHANES biospecimens in my study?

NHANES biospecimens are representative of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. resident population and can be combined with NHANES data on health, nutritional status, health behaviors and environment.
Blood and urine samples are collected and processed in the mobile examination center by certified laboratory professionals, then stored in biorepositories. Strict protocols and guidelines are followed to ensure the integrity of the samples.

What is a biorepository?

The NHANES Biospecimen Program stores and maintains samples (serum, plasma, urine and DNA) for future study purposes at storage facilities termed biorepositories.

Three different biorepositories store the NHANES biospecimen collections of: pristine serum, and urine; surplus serum and plasma; and DNA.

How do I access NHANES stored samples to fulfill my study needs?

NHANES biospecimens are accessed by submitting a completed proposal directly on this site via the link below. The proposal must follow the specific guidelines outlined in the Federal Register.
An approved proposal is needed before samples can be transferred to the researcher.

For more information on accessing serum, plasma, or urine specimens see the Federal register.

For more information on DNA specimens see the Federal Register.

What is the difference between pristine and surplus biospecimens?

Pristine serum, and urine samples are immediately frozen at the mobile examination center and sent to the pristine biorepository for long term storage. These samples do not undergo any laboratory testing or a freeze-thaw cycle prior to storage. Surplus serum, and plasma are residual sample that remains after laboratories have completed testing. These samples have undergone at least two freeze-thaw cycles during testing and prior to shipment to the surplus biorepository for long term storage.

Where can I get more information about the Biospecimen Program?

More information is available on this website, by reviewing the Series II NHANES Biospecimen Report, or by directly contacting:

For Serum, Plasma, and Urine Biospecimens

For DNA/Genetics Biospecimens

Page last reviewed: July 18, 2022