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 from previously released NHANES survey years that can be used by researchers.

Data produced from health studies using NHANES biospecimens are made available to the public through the NHANES website or the Research Data Center.

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 Plasma Sera
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 X
2005-2006 X X X X
2007-2008 X X X X
2009-2010 X X X X X
2011-2012 X X X X
2013-2014 X X X
2015-2016 X X X
2017-2018 X X
2019-March 2020** X X X

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2022.
*Small amount of surplus plasma from 1999-2002 and 2007-2008 is available.
**2019-March 2020 specimens must be combined with 2017-2018 to create a nationally representative sample.

More Information and How to Access the Biospecimens

Frequently Asked Questions

What are NHANES stored biospecimens?

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 the environment.

Blood and urine biospecimens are collected and processed in the Mobile Examination Center by certified laboratory professionals, then stored in biorepositories.

What is a biorepository?

The NHANES Biospecimen Program stores and maintains previously collected biospecimens (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, plasma, and urine; surplus serum; and DNA.

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

NHANES biospecimens can be requested by submitting a completed proposal to the program via the links below. The proposal must follow the specific guidelines outlined in the Federal Register.

An approved proposal is needed before specimens 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, plasma and urine biospecimens are immediately frozen at the Mobile Examination Center and sent to the pristine biorepository for long term storage. These biospecimens do not undergo any laboratory testing or a freeze-thaw cycle prior to storage. Surplus sera are residual biospecimens that remain after laboratories have completed testing. These biospecimens have undergone at least two freeze-thaw cycles during testing 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 (please note: available biospecimen numbers in this report may not be up to date), or by directly contacting:

For Serum, Plasma, and Urine Biospecimens

For DNA/Genetics Biospecimens