Specimen Collection Guidelines

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Post- Mortem Specimens

Post-mortem skin biopsy for diagnosis of pathogens with high infectious risks (e.g. viral haemorrhagic fever)


  • All these materials are assembled in one kit.
  • For bio-safety reasons the protective clothing and gloves are for one-time use only, and should be incinerated after use.
  • Bucket, soap and water
  • Gown, latex gloves, heavy duty rubber gloves, plastic apron.
  • Masks and, where available, respirators for aerosol protection.
  • Instruments: punch biopsy tool or scissors, forceps
  • Screw-cap vial containing 10% buffered formalin fixative.
  • Disinfection solution.


Step Action
  • Put on protective clothing beginning with gown followed by latex gloves, rubber gloves, facial mask, and plastic apron.
  • Open the vial containing the formalin fixative. Lay out the instruments.
  • Gently turn the head of the cadaver to expose the nape of the neck. This area is selected because it is less visible and is highly vascular.

Using a punch-biopsy tool

  • Place the open, sharp end on the skin and swivel into the skin, pressing firmly.
  • Remove the tool from the skin and lift the biopsy specimen out with forceps.
  • Cut free with scalpel or scissors.

Using a scissors to take the biopsy

  • Place the specimen in the vial containing the formalin fixative, and close the screw cap tightly.
  • Dip the closed vial in the disinfectant for 1 minute and allow to dry.
  • Drop the instruments in the disinfectant.
  • When finished, remove the outer rubber gloves and drop them in the disinfectant.
  • Keep the latex gloves on while removing materials from the disinfectant.
  • Dispose of all protective clothing, rubber and latex gloves, and materials in a plastic bag and incinerate everything.
  • Wash your hands well and disinfect with 70% isopropyl alcohol or povidone iodine
  • Label the specimen vial.
  • Pack the specimen vial and ship at ambient temperature.


Once the sample has been fixed in formalin, the decontaminated vial may be safely transported to the receiving laboratory.