Isolation of Variola virus

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Reference Details


Isolation of Variola virus.

Test Category:
Variola virus
Illnesses and Diseases:
  • Smallpox

Lesion fluid and/or crust, scab, skin material; swabs; CSF/serum from encephalitic patients, fresh frozen tissues – minimum sample 0.5 mL.

Collection Method:

Collect lesion or crust material, scabs, swabs, CSF in sterile 1.5-2.0 mL tube, avoid dilution of the sample, transport media is not needed.

Serum: collect in serum (red top) or serum separator tubes (SST), centrifugation of serum tubes is not needed and should be avoided.

Tissues: Fresh frozen tissues should be placed in plastic containers.

Specimen Processing, Storage and Shipping:

Store samples in refrigerator or frozen until being shipped for testing.  Serum can be shipped refrigerated or frozen. Tissues should be shipped frozen. Ship frozen specimens on dry ice and refrigerated specimens on wet ice.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods:

Store samples in refrigerator or frozen until being shipped for testing. Ship frozen specimens on dry ice and refrigerated samples on wet ice. Shipping of samples suspected of containing Risk Group 4 pathogens shall be done by a TDG certified individual in accordance with TDG regulations. If applicable, initiate an Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) notification 24 hours prior to shipping. To initiate an ERAP notification, please click the link below to access the transport flow chart for Risk Group 4 pathogens or call 1-866-262-8433 (available 24/7) for assistance.

Transport Flowchart for Risk Group 4 Pathogen(s)
Patient Criteria:

Patient must be symptomatic with characteristic smallpox papules.

Accompanying Documentation:

Completed Special Pathogens requisition including sender name, address and telephone number. Patient information including name or identifier, date of birth, and all relevant patient history including clinical diagnosis, underlying diseases, exposure risk and travel history. Indicate type of specimen collected and all specimen information. Select all required tests. If possible, attach lab results that have already been done at local or provincial laboratories.


Variola virus is extinct in nature and an active case would be highly unusual. Contact Special Pathogens prior to submission of sample to ensure appropriate shipping documentation is generated. Generation of request will require activation of Canadian Smallpox Contingency Plan.

Methods and Interpretation of Results:

For diagnosis of Variola virus infection to be confirmed, one or more of the following diagnostic markers must be positive: (i) Variola virus DNA by PCR, and (ii) isolation of Variola virus.

Turnaround Time:

2 calendar days.

Phone: (204) 789-6019 or (204) 789-7032
Fax: (204) 789-2140
Related Information: