Diphtheria culture – Skin lesions

Consistent with O. Reg. 671/92 of the French Language Services Act, laboratory testing information on this page is only available in English because it is scientific or technical in nature and is for use only by qualified health care providers and not by members of the public.

Testing Indications

For Suspect Cases contact your local Health Unit prior to collecting specimens.

Diphtheria is primarily a respiratory infection however specimens should be collected from suspect skin lesions during the acute phase of illness.

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Diphtheria culture

Aspirate, Swab or membranous material

Amies Charcoal Transport Media; Kit Order #300229

Submission and Collection Notes


Material should be taken from the affected area of the skin, either by aspirate or swab. Membranous material may also be cultured. 


Remove any crusted material and swab the base of the lesion(s).


Indicate symptoms and date of onset on the General Test Requisition Form.

Storage and Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Specimens should be sent to the laboratory as soon as possible, however swabs are acceptable within 3 days of collection.

Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHO laboratory on ice packs.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

Diphtheria culture is performed daily, Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is up to 5 days from receipt by PHO laboratory.

Test Methods

Specimens are set up on bacterial culture medium for identification and isolates are tested for toxigenicity.


Results are reported to the ordering physician or health care provider as indicated on the requisition.

Specimens that are positive for Diphtheria are to be reported to the Medical Officer of Health as per Health Protection and Promotion Act.

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Updated 20 July 2020