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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.


What Types of Biospecimens Are Available?

Biospecimens have been collected from NHANES participants since the 1980s and are categorized as pristine serum, plasma and urine (i.e., immediately frozen for storage and not tested in a lab), surplus serum, plasma and urine (i.e., after laboratory testing was completed, the additional was stored) or DNA.

Biospecimen availability by type and NHANES survey cycle
NHANES Cycle Specimen Type
Pristine Surplus DNA
Sera Plasma Urine Sera Plasma Urine
III(1988-1994) X X X
1999-2000 X X X X X X X
2001-2002 X X X X X X X
2001-2002 X X X X X X X
2003-2004 X X X X
2005-2006 X X X X
2007-2008 X 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 X

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015.


More Information and How to Access the Biospecimens


Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use NHANES biospecimens in my research?

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 specimens are collected in the field by professionally trained Certified Medical Technologists, and are processed and stored in biorepositories following strict protocols and guidelines established to ensure the integrity of the biospecimens.

What is a biorepository?

NHANES biorepositories are storage facilities that process and hold biospecimens (serum, plasma, urine and DNA) for future research purposes.

The Stored Biospecimen Program uses three biorepositories for storage of NHANES biospecimens: 1) Pristine serum, plasma and urine biorepository; 2) Surplus sera, plasma and urine biorepository; and 3) DNA biorepository.

How do I access NHANES stored biological specimens to fulfill my research needs?

NHANES biospecimens are accessed by submitting a complete and detailed research proposal for your study, directly on this site via the link below. There are specific federal guidelines that must be met in order to be granted access to the biospecimens.

See the Federal register [PDF-241 KB] for more information.

What is the difference between pristine and surplus biospecimens?

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

Pristine and surplus serum, plasma and urine specimens are available for researchers.

Where can I get more information about the biospecimen program?

More information can be found by accessing this website, reviewing the Series II NHANES Biospecimen Report, or by directly contacting:

For Serum, Plasma, and Urine Biospecimens

For DNA/Genetics Biospecimens