Submitting Specimens for Psittacosis Testing

Key points

  • CDC uses real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify Chlamydia psittaci.
  • CDC doesn't use serological testing as a routine diagnostic method.
  • Culture may be performed in certain cases.
  • CDC requires approval prior to submission of clinical specimens for testing.
  • CDC only accepts specimens from public health laboratories.
Image of shipping containers marked as containing biological substances.

Specimen acceptance criteria

Prior to submission of clinical specimens for C. psittaci testing, CDC's Respiratory Diseases Branch requires:

  • A consultation
  • Pre-approval

Once approved, public health department laboratory staff can forward specimens to CDC.

Specimens from private healthcare providers and institutions must be submitted to a public health department laboratory for appropriate processing. Public health department laboratory staff can then forward approved specimens to CDC for specialized testing.

Specimen, documentation, packaging, and shipping

Ideally, specimens submitted for PCR should be sputum or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Other specimen types will be considered upon consultation.

The following links provide information on specimen, documentation, packaging, and shipping requirements:

CDC doesn't accept avian specimens‎

CDC's PCR test for C. psittaci isn't validated for use on avian specimens, so they aren't accepted. The Association of Avian Veterinarians has compiled a list of laboratories that conduct PCR testing of specimens from birds.

Request CDC assistance

Public inquiries

About psittacosis: Contact CDC-INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO, (800-232-4636), TTY: (888) 232-6348, or email CDC-INFO.

About specific outbreak investigations: Contact the relevant state or local health department.

Health department inquiries

CDC can assist health departments investigate outbreaks of psittacosis. This can involve epidemiologic, laboratory, and communication consultations, as appropriate.

Technical support from CDC‎

CDC can help public health laboratories implement molecular testing (real-time PCR) for C. psittaci by providing materials, protocols, and training.