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of Nebraskans through diagnostic laboratory
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Testing Results
IMPORTANT! Sites requesting testing must have approval from the appropriate state or local health department before submitting specimens. Approval must be sent to NPHL by email at or by calling (402) 559-9444.

A Special Microbiology Form must accompany the specimens. Some tests require additional forms and patient history. This will be listed below when applicable. When requested, testing will not be performed without all required information.

Please call NPHL Client Services at (402) 559-2440 or toll free at (866) 290-1406 for further clarification.


  Test: Bordetella pertussis DNA Detection 
  Synonym: Whooping cough (Pertussis) by PCR 
  Method: Real-Time DNA Amplification 
  Availability: Monday - Saturday. Results in 3 days. 
  Specimen: Posterior nasopharyngeal swab (throat or anterior nasal swabs are not acceptable) or nasopharyngeal aspirate - flush posterior nasopharynx with a saline wash (preferred specimen). Swabs are available from NPHL Client Services. 
  Collection Device: Nasopharyngeal swab: swab tip must be polyester (such as Dacron®), rayon, or nylon-flocked with a flexible wire handle. For DNA detection, can collect one of the following types of nasopharyngeal swabs:
1. Culture swab, Amies gel with charcoal medium for transport
2. Dry Nasopharyngeal swab - place into sterile container to transport. (NOTE: if B. pertuss culture ordered in addition to PCR, must submit on separate Amies medium with charcoal).
Nasopharyngeal wash: sterile container 
  Volume: Swab or minimum of 0.5 mL nasopharyngeal wash 
  Storage/Transport: Refrigerate, transport in biohazard bag with adsorbent material by NPHL courier. If no courier available, can be transported by FedEx, UPS, or USPS (1st Class, Priority, or Express Mail). Must transport using Biological Substances Category B shipper insulated with ice/gel pack. Follow appropriate DOT/IATA Regulation Guidelines. For assistance, call NPHL State Training Coordinator at (402) 559-3590. 
  Unacceptable: Incorrect collection device such as swabs that are cotton or calcium-alginate tipped, wooden shafted, and those used to collect throat specimens; specimen not transported in the correct transport media; and respiratory aspirates in collection containers with tubing. 
  Specimen Stability: Ambient, 4 hours; refrigerated, 5 days; and frozen, 2 weeks 
  Reference Interval: Negative; not detected 
  Reportable Disease: Positive is reportable 
  Comments: A confirmed case is present if the specimen is PCR positive for pertussis AND the patient has symptoms consistent with pertussis. Culture confirmation of pertussis for at least one suspicious case is recommended any time there is suspicion of a pertussis outbreak. PCR has optimal sensitivity during the first 3 weeks of cough. PCR testing after 5 days of antibiotic use however is unlikely to be of benefit and it not generally recommended. PCR assays are not standardized across clinical laboratories and interpretation of PCR results must be done in conjunction with an evaluation of signs and symptoms and available epidemiological information. This test may cross react with Bordetella holmesii. 
  Revised: 12/19/2012 


If you have questions about proper specimen collection, please call NPHL Client Services at (402) 559-2440 or toll free at (866) 290-1406.