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Suspicious Packages (for Investigation of Agents of) Bioterrorism - RT PCR
Specimen Type:

​Suspicious powder/Environmental samples


​Suspicious powder samples should be collected in a clean container and triple bagged.

Collection information:

​To order Collection Kits or other PHOL Supplies complete the Requisition for Containers and Supplies. The form should be faxed to Public Health Ontario Laboratory, Toronto at 416-235-5753 or your local PHOL.

Minimum volume required:

​A minimum quantity of material is necessary (no more than a few grams). In the case of a letter or envelope, package the entire item.

NOTE: Environmental swabs are not accepted


​Complete all fields of the Public Health Laboratory Requisition for Submitting Environmental Samples for Lab testing.  


​Refer to submission guidelines

Preparation prior to transport:

​Follow the instructions found in the Suspicious packages for investigation of agents of Bioterrorism” (noted above.)
• Place the suspected environmental material in the zip lock bag and seal completely
• Place the zip lock-sealed bag in a 2nd zip lock bag and seal completely
• Place the double sealed zip lock in a 3rd zip lock bag and seal completely
• Label the outer zip lock bag: BIOHAZARD
• Place the triple bagged sample into the airtight container and seal container firmly

Special Instructions:



​Suspicious packages- Bioterrorism specimens are tested by real time polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR). Depending on the results, samples may be forwarded to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for confirmation and/or further testing.


​​The decision to test a sample for agents of bioterrorism is made by the police in consultation with the local Health Unit.

Prior to sending suspicious packages/materials to Public Health Ontario-Laboratories-(Toronto PHOL), threat assessment must be carried out by the police/hazmat team to rule out for chemical, radiological, and explosive risks.

NOTE: Public Health Laboratory (Toronto PHOL) must be notified prior to sample submission. The urgency for testing is made jointly by police, health unit and public health laboratory (Toronto).

The PHO-laboratory is located at 81 Resources Rd. in Etobicoke.


​The test is performed on an “as needed” basis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The TAT for RT-PCR is up to 4-6 hours (or longer depending upon unique situation) and is determined on a case by case basis. TAT may take longer if sample is sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for further testing.


​Results are reported to the Medical Officer of Health and law enforcement agency as indicated on the requisition

Uncontrolled print copy. Valid only on day of Print: [date]
Page updated on [date/time] 2013-05-14 9:31 AM
© , Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion