Submission Guidelines

ISU Public Health Testing Services only accepts samples submitted by Iowa health care providers. 

Client Sign Up   

To create an account and be considered a PHTS Client, the clinic must:

  1. Complete and return the Reference Lab Services Agreement.
  2. Visit the PHTS Client Web Portal Sign Up and complete the form. 

Information required:

  1. Clinic information
  2. Administrative user name, clinic associated email, and contact phone number
  3. Users’ names and clinic associated emails

Once the information has been processed by ISU staff, users will be emailed to activate their accounts.

For assistance, please call 515-296-3150 or email

As a guide for filling out your submission form, please reference this training video or PDF guide:

Collection Procedures

Collection instructions for upper and lower respiratory specimens are available on the CDC website.

Specimen Requirements


Nasopharyngeal swab and Nasal Mid-turbinate swab are the accepted specimen types.

All specimens must be labeled with at least two patient identifiers (e.g. patient ID, first and last name, date of birth).  These patient identifiers must match exactly with the patient identifiers on the test request or the specimen will be rejected and testing will not be performed. 

Media Requirements

The screw-top transport tube should contain a minimum of 2 mL of non-expired viral transport medium.

Not acceptable specimens include, but are not limited to bacterial media, calcium alginate swabs, cotton swabs, swabs with wooden or metal shafts.

Specimen Packaging

  1. Close labeled specimen tube tightly and wrap in absorbent material.
  2. Place wrapped tube into a biohazard bag.
  3. Label the biohazard bag:
    • To: ISU – Ames
    • From: Your facility name
    • COVID-19
  4. Print the test request form from the client portal and place it in the outside pocket of the biohazard bag.  Do not place the test request form inside the bag with the sample.  Do not staple the form to the bag.  Do not submit any other forms, including those from your hospital or clinic.
  5. If you have multiple samples to send, place them all in a larger zip top bag and label the outside in the same manner as the biohazard bags.
  6. Keep sample at room temperature and deliver to the lab as soon as possible.

Specimen Rejection

Samples meeting any of the following criteria will be rejected and not tested. Facilities will be alerted of a sample rejection via phone call.

Broken or leaking sample containers
Unlabeled sample containers
Samples containing not accepted swabs/media
Incomplete or incorrect test request form

Specimen Delivery

Preferred Method – courier delivery

ISU Public Health Testing Services Laboratory utilizes Central Delivery Service (CDS) of Iowa, the same courier system as the State of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory (SHL).

If you are a current CDS client, go to the CDS website to arrange a pickup. If you are not a current CDS client, please contact CDS to create an account.

Alternative Method – direct drop off at PHTS

Samples may be dropped off at the lab during business hours. Please see the Contact Us page for hours and directions.

Alternative Method – mail

Samples may be shipped directly to the PHTS lab:

Public Health Testing Services
Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
1850 Christensen Drive
Ames, IA 50011-1134

Ship overnight via UPS or FedEx following Category B shipping requirements.  For specific details about shipping “Biological Substances, Category B” through UPS or FedEx, or to order packaging and labeling materials, please contact the respective agency directly.