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Utah Public Health Laboratory

Yersina pestis (Plague)

Fee: Please refer to fee schedule

Ordering Recommendation

All clients – Contact Utah Public Health Laboratory prior to submitting specimens.


Sunday - Saturday as required.


LRN Protocols


<1-7 days

Specimen Required

  • Collect: Culture isolate, blood, environmental samples, bronchial wash, tracheal aspirate, sputum, nasopharyngeal swabs, lymph node aspirates, serum, lesion exudates, tissue smears.
  • Specimen Preparation:Collect appropriate blood volume and number of sets per established lab protocol.
    • Note: In suspected cases of plague, and additional blood or broth culture (general nutrient broth) should be incubated at room temperature (22-28°C), the temperature at which Y. pestis grows faster. Do not shake or rock additional broth culture so that the characteristic growth formation of Y. pestis can be clearly visualized. Transport samples directly to the Sentinel Laboratory at ambient temperature. Hold them at ambient temperature until they are placed onto the blood culture instrument or incubator. Do not refrigerate. Follow established laboratory protocol for processing blood cultures.
    • Lower respiratory tract (pneumonic) – Bronchial wash or transtracheal aspirate (≥1 ml). Sputum may be examined but it is not advised because of contamination by normal throat flora. Transport specimens in sterile, screw-capped containers at room temperature to the Sentinel Laboratory.
    • Aspirate of involved tissue (bubonic) or biopsied specimen – Liver, spleen, bone marrow, lung. Note: Aspirates may yield little material; therefore, a sterile saline flush may be needed to obtain an adequate amount of specimen. Syringe and needle of aspirated sample should be capped, secured by tape, and sent to the Sentinel Laboratory. Submit tissue or aspirate in a sterile container. For small samples, add 1-2 drops of sterile normal saline to keep the tissue moist.
    • Swabs – A swab of tissue is not recommended. However, if a swab specimen is taken, the swab should be reinserted into the transport package for transport.
  • Storage/Transport Conditions:For transport time >2h and <24h, refrigerate at 2 to 8°C. Culture isolates may be transported at room temperature.
  • Unacceptable Conditions:Calcium alginate or cotton swabs, swabs with wooden shaft, or dry swabs.
  • Remarks:
  • Stability: Transport directly to laboratory at room temperature. For transport time >2 h and < 24 h, refrigerate at 2 to 8°C.


Detected or Not Detected

Recovered or Not Recovered

Interpretive Data

Yersinia pestis DNA detected or not detected by PCR.

Yersina pestis detected or not detected from culture.


It is mandatory that UPHL be contacted prior to submitting samples for testing.

Cross References

American Society of Microbiology Sentinel Level Clinical Laboratory Guidelines