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

If SARS Coronavirus is suspected contact the Public Health Ontario laboratory immediately to consult with a microbiologist.

Testing is not routinely available in Canada. If the travel history and clinical presentation raise suspicion of SARS testing may be available through special request at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) after approval by PHOL and NML microbiologists.

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

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


Nasopharyngeal swab

Swab in viral transport media provided in kit

Virus Respiratory Collection Kit (Order number 390082)


Throat swab

Swab in viral transport media provided in kit

Virus Respiratory Collection Kit (Order number 390082)


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)

1-2 ml

Sterile container


Pleural fluid

1-2 ml

Sterile container


Respiratory tract tissue

2 grams

Sterile container

Submission and Collection Notes


Submit only the respiratory specimens described in the specimen requirements table above  - e.g. bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), bronchial wash, throat swab, nasopharyngeal swab (NPS), pleural fluid, respiratory tract tissue etc. Other specimen types (e.g. blood, stool) will NOT be tested.


Indicate symptoms and date of onset on the General Test Requisition Form if diagnostic testing is required.

Storage and Transport

Complete all fields of the General Test Requisition Form. Include, the patient’s full name, date of birth, Health Card Number (must match the specimen label), enter the name of the test requested under test description, source of specimen, date of onset, date of collection, physician name and address, clinical information/diagnosis any recent travel history.

Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Place specimen in biohazard bag and seal. Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHOL on ice packs ASAP.

If transport of specimen to testing laboratory will be delayed more than 72 hours specimens should be frozen and shipped on dry ice.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

The SARS – RT-PCR test will be performed by special request only.

Specimens are shipped by PHOL to NML for SARS coronavirus testing.

Turnaround time is up to 5 days from receipt by NML.

STAT and Critical Samples Testing

The SARS – RT-PCR test will be performed on special request only.

Test Methods

The sample nucleic acid is tested by the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) using Real Time PCR for SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Positive specimens will be confirmed by sequencing or PCR of an additional gene target.

NML only offers PCR testing on respiratory tract specimens. No other specimens will be tested.

Serology is not currently used in Canada for evaluation for possible SARS infection. 


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

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

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Laboratory Services

Updated 20 July 2020