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Best Practice No 175
  1. J Francis1,
  2. S P Barrett2,
  3. M M Ogilvie3,
  4. S Sutherland4
  1. 1ULH NHS Trust, Grantham District Hospital, Lincolnshire NG31 8DG, UK
  2. 2Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK
  4. 4University of Edinburgh Medical School (retired)
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J Francis
 Department of Microbiology, Rotherham General Hospitals NHS Trust, Moorgate road, Rotherham S60 2UD, UK;

Guidelines for virological and non-viral serological examination of specimens in routine diagnostic microbiological laboratories


Viral examination is routinely carried out in most routine diagnostic microbiology laboratories. Most often, this comprises the detection of viral antigens and antibodies, and less commonly the isolation of viruses and the detection of viral nucleic acids. However, there are no standards or guidelines available for processing these specimens in routine diagnostic laboratories or for referral to specialist virology centres or units. Clinical Pathology Accreditation (CPA) has defined standards for assessing the quality of service provided by laboratories, but these do not include the scientific and technical aspects of provision of service. The Association of Medical Microbiologists has recently published Standards for Laboratory practice in medical microbiology, which covers scientific and technical aspects of provision of microbiology service, mainly bacteriological examination of specimens in routine diagnostic microbiology laboratories. These guidelines are complementary to the CPA guidelines and aim to ensure a consistent and high quality service. This article presents guidelines for the examination of specimens for the diagnosis of viral infections.

  • non-viral serological standards
  • virology standards
  • virological examination of specimens
  • HBsAg, hepatitis B surface antigen
  • HBV/HCV, hepatitis B/C virus
  • HIV, human immunodeficiency virus
  • NEQAS, National External Quality Assessment Scheme
  • VZV, varicella zoster virus

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