Information on taking, submitting and processing samples which potentially contain mpox virus.
Applies to England
This guidance is aimed at healthcare workers and clinical diagnostic laboratories both in the public and private sectors. It is to be used for all suspected cases, irrespective of whether the case is being managed as a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) case or not; however, cases meeting the operational definition for suspected HCID should be discussed with the Imported Fever Service prior to testing.
Mpox diagnostic testing is available in UKHSA laboratories and some NHS laboratories. Where these services are available these should be accessed according to local guidance; otherwise mpox diagnostic testing service can be accessed through this guidance.
Information is available on the mpox case definitions, and will continue to be updated. There is also information available on the classification of contacts of mpox cases and advice
for vaccination and follow-up.
Infections such as chickenpox, herpes simplex virus (HSV), molluscum contagiosum and syphilis are all still circulating. Diagnostic testing for these infections should be undertaken as usual, with testing for mpox proceeding in parallel if deemed necessary.
In the first instance, suspected cases must be discussed with local infection clinicians (infectious diseases, microbiology, virology or genitourinary medicine as appropriate). Make sure that the request form indicates the risk factors and the reason that mpox is suspected.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
The minimum recommended PPE for healthcare workers who need to be within 1 metre of a suspected case of mpox is droplet and contact precautions, with eye protection where there is a possibility of splash (for example taking diagnostic
tests such as throat swab or deroofing lesions) as outlined in the NHS England (NHSE) national infection prevention and control manual.
The national infection prevention and control manual also outlines the minimum recommended level of PPE for inpatient care.
Sampling for diagnostic testing
Mpox is diagnosed by PCR test on a viral swab taken from one or more vesicles or ulcers. Swabs should be sent in viral transport media.
Follow the instructions below:
1. Ensure that you are wearing the minimum appropriate PPE as above.
2. Take a viral swab in
viral culture tube or viral transport medium. Throat swabs are also suitable samples if atypical lesions, or if the patient is contact of a confirmed case with a possible prodrome syndrome but without a typical rash.
For high risk contacts of a confirmed or highly probable case who have developed systemic symptoms but do not have a rash or lesions for sampling, you should take a throat swab in viral transport media. Note by UKHSA ’s
4. Samples for investigation of other infections, including sexually transmitted infections, should be packaged separately, with separate request forms.
5. Samples should be sent to your normal local laboratory. Testing for other infections, for example HSV, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), syphilis, should follow normal local procedures. If
mpox testing is not provided locally, the laboratory should also forward the samples to the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) for mpox PCR.
Sampling for monitoring confirmed or highly probable cases
If follow-up testing is required from a confirmed or highly probable case, either because of clinical deterioration or to inform discharge from isolation to an inpatient setting, additional samples should be taken and should include the following:
- a lesion swab and throat swab in viral transport medium
- a blood sample in an EDTA tube
- a urine sample in a universal sterile container
from confirmed or highly probable cases of mpox should be sent to RIPL as below.
Submitting diagnostic samples to RIPL for testing
1. Download and complete the
mpox testing request form. If you require urgent reporting of results (usually only for suspected HCID cases), please ensure that you provide a direct contact number for the physician designated to receive results, which may be out of hours.
2. Package the samples carefully following the guidance on page 17 of the RIPL user manual. You must ensure that stoppers and lids are firmly attached, the tubes are labelled with the sample type (for example swab left palm, penile lesion), patient name and date of birth. Do not use an internal study number. Samples that have leaked in transit cannot be processed.
3. Send the samples to your normal local laboratory. Any additional samples for sexually transmitted infections should be packaged separately.
4. Inform your local laboratory that the samples for
mpox testing should be forwarded to RIPL for testing. This should be through a licensed Category B courier to:
Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory
Manor Farm Road
Salisbury SP4 0JG
DX 6930400, Salisbury 92 SP
The working hours contact for RIPL is 01980 612 348 from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org but do not include patient identifiable information.
5. If urgent testing is required, including out of hours, this must be discussed and agreed with the on-call Imported Fever Service consultant (0844 778 8990). Urgent testing will normally be reserved only for suspected HCID cases imported from
All results will be sent to the referring laboratory through the standard electronic reporting system.
The RIPL office can answer results
Information for laboratories handling samples potentially containing
mpox virus Mpox is a Hazard Group (HG) 3 pathogen. Under normal circumstances, any procedure with HG3 pathogens involving potentially infectious material, where there is a risk of generating aerosols, droplets or splashes, must be performed within an MSC at CL3. However, some diagnostic samples may be handled at CL2 subject to local risk assessment. The following table provides the minimum containment level for handling samples suspected or confirmed to contain mpox .
|Specimen type/test||Suspect/probable/possible case||Confirmed/highly probable case|
|Nucleic acid extraction for the molecular detection of
||MSC I, II or III at CL3 until after virus inactivation.||MSC I, II or III at CL3 until after virus inactivation.|
|Sample transport||Transported via Category B route||Transported via Category B route|
|Nucleic acid extraction of skin lesion swabs for molecular assays of infections other than
||MSC I, II or III at CL2 until after virus inactivation||MSC I, II or III at CL3 until after virus inactivation|
|Respiratory samples||MSC I, II or III at CL2||MSC I, II or III at CL2|
|Other microbiological samples where manual manipulation is required for example plating of culture swabs, urine antigen testing, manipulation of blood cultures or urine||MSC I, II or III at CL2||MSC I, II or III at CL3|
|Routine laboratory blood tests||Autoanalysers at CL2||Autoanalysers at CL2|
|Waste disposal||Standard protocols for disinfection and waste disposal||Standard protocols for disinfection and waste disposal|
|Routine blood tests outside of an autoanalyzer||Open bench at CL2 with PPE (gloves, laboratory coat +/- eye protection subject to risk assessment)
Samples must be centrifuged using sealed centrifuge rotors or sample cups which are loaded and unloaded in an MSC
|Open bench at CL2 with PPE (gloves, laboratory coat +/- eye protection subject to risk assessment)
Samples must be centrifuged using sealed centrifuge rotors or sample cups which are loaded and unloaded in an MSC
|Point of care / near patient testing of lesion swabs||Generally, not to be performed but is possible with a local risk assessment which identifies correct PPE to protect the healthcare worker||Generally, not to be performed but is possible with a local risk assessment which identifies correct PPE to protect the healthcare worker|
|Point of care / near patient testing of respiratory samples||Should not be analysed unless a local risk assessment has been completed and shows that it can be undertaken safely. Near-patient tests for viral nucleic acid amplification vary widely in their general safety and where aerosols or droplets may be generated. If a local risk assessment can show that any aerosol or droplet generation occurs within a closed analyser, and external surfaces can be cleaned with detergent-based disinfectant, then these tests may be used||Not to be performed|
|Point of care tests / near patient testing of other samples, for example blood gases||May be used subject to local risk assessment regarding the potential for the generation of splashes and droplets, and the appropriate use of PPE and disinfection||May be used subject to local risk assessment regarding the potential for the generation of splashes and droplets, and the appropriate use of PPE and disinfection|
Laboratory exposure may occur via needlestick injury, direct specimen contact, or inhalation of aerosols. These exposures can be avoided if standard biosafety precautions are taken.
It is important that other diagnostic testing is not delayed while waiting for the results of
mpox testing so as not to delay diagnosis of other illness that may require urgent treatment.
Other procedures, such as extraction or procedures which may generate aerosols, should be performed in a CL3 facility with staff wearing cuffed, back-fastening gowns, gloves and goggles.
For PCR testing of specimens from suspected mpox cases (for example testing for syphilis or HSV), the specimens should be opened in an appropriate microbiological safety cabinet in a CL2 facility.
Samples can be inactivated before extraction by heating for 1 hour at 60°C in a validated water-bath or block designed to ensure even heat distribution throughout standard specimen tubes.
Guanidine/guanidinium buffers such as AVL can also be used but work best with additional non-denaturing surfactants (see Inactivation of orthopoxvirus for diagnostic PCR analysis by Vinner and Fomsgaard, and PAHO/WHO guidance).
Inactivated samples can be handled safely with standard laboratory precautions.
Samples from confirmed and highly probable mpox cases should be labelled appropriately so that laboratories can ensure that they are handled correctly with the necessary additional precautions as outlined above.
For routine testing of blood samples from suspected or confirmed mpox cases (for example for biochemistry or haematology), standard clinical laboratory precautions can be followed, but aerosol generating procedures should be avoided. The risk of infection from these samples is less than that for hepatitis B or any other similar organism.
Surfaces should be decontaminated with standard disinfectants. Waste should be autoclaved and disposed of as per standard laboratory procedures.
Guidance for laboratories seeking to establish mpox diagnostic testing capability
UKHSA provides a diagnostic testing service free of charge to NHS users for public health purposes.
UKHSA does not restrict NHS or private laboratories from establishing their own
mpox testing service, but any such service would be provided at their own expense.
Laboratories planning on establishing local diagnostic testing should ensure they remain compliant with relevant legislation, perform appropriate risk assessments, and assure ongoing quality. Laboratories should be aware that
mpox is schedule V restricted by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
Laboratories should also ensure that their testing provision is able to maintain compliance with the different operational definitions of HCID for mpox within their testing pathways, including the ability to distinguish or escalate for confirmation cases that may be classified as an HCID.
UKHSA does not approve, endorse or recommend a specific commercial
mpox diagnostic test, although a mpox -specific nucleic acid amplification test is recommended, and use of an orthopox-only test is discouraged.
The use of multi-target assays is recommended. Reports of genomic deletions in assay target regions that may result in false negatives have been reported in rare circumstances.
Please discuss the case with RIPL if you suspect you have a case with an assay target dropout (for example orthopox
positive/ mpox negative).
At present, only nucleic acid amplification tests (typically PCR-based) are recommended for provision of testing services. Other test types are available on the market, however their performance characteristics in this outbreak are uncertain and are not recommended by UKHSA.
Recommended process prior to testing
To ensure confidence and compliance with the current notifiable diseases
1. Submit a copy of their nucleic acid assay verification file and reporting criteria for peer review to the UKHSA mpox Diagnostics team (contact details below), along with the intended go live date and predicted capacity.
2. Technical specialists at UKHSA Porton Down will provide a peer review that assay selection is reasonable for the service offered and remove the need for confirmatory testing of positive samples by RIPL. This peer review is not an assay approval and laboratories should ensure they follow their standard local assay approval processes including through relevant accredited bodies.
3. Laboratories that have undergone satisfactory peer review are not required to submit samples to UKHSA Porton Down for confirmation.
4. Samples for sequencing will be required and UKHSA will arrange couriers for this if existing courier routes aren’t in place. As a minimum, it is recommended that positive samples from women, children, patients with overseas travel history and/or treated with anti-viral medicines (such as
tecoviramat) are retained for sequencing.
5. Laboratory should work with their UKHSA regional laboratory surveillance Second Generation Surveillance System (SGSS) leads to ensure data feeds from their laboratory systems are reporting correctly to SGSS data system.
6. For monitoring purposes, laboratories should provide both
mpox negative and positive results into SGSS.
7. It is critical that data collection and reporting systems are in place and tested with mpox data analytics teams before the service goes live to ensure this feeds into the national surveillance programme.
8. A turnaround time within 24 hours from sample receipt, and preferably same day, is desirable.
If a laboratory intends to provide testing using an alternative testing methodology please contact the UKHSA mpox Diagnostics team (contact details below) to discuss prior to offering the service as this may have significant implications for public health monitoring purposes.
UKHSA Porton Down may be able to supply control material to assist in assay verification activities (contact through the UKHSA mpox Diagnostics team, see below).
A mpox External Quality Assurance (EQA) exercise delivered through National External Quality Assessment Services (NEQAS) is planned so submission of assay verification data can help ensure laboratories are considered for participation in that EQA exercise when it becomes available.
UKHSA mpox Diagnostics team contact details: email@example.com
Updated Sampling for diagnostic testing, Sampling for monitoring cases and Submitting samples to RIPL for testing sections.
Updated sections: Submitting diagnostic samples to RIPL for testing and Test results.
Updated information on out of hours testing.
Updated information on submitting samples. Clarified that guidance is for both HCID and non-HCID cases.
Amended in line with the introduction of highly probable case definition and to include information for laboratories seeking to establish monkeypox diagnostic testing capability.
Removed information about clinical helpline.
Updated information on transport of samples from confirmed cases and information on when samples will be processed.
Added link to monkeypox testing request form.
Updated sections on sampling for diagnostic testing, submitting diagnostic samples for testing, test results and information for laboratories handling samples.
Removed the request for blood and urine samples and throat swabs to be submitted for diagnostic testing.
Added information about contacting the monkeypox clinical helpline.