Diphtheria – Respiratory

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

For Suspect Cases contact your local Health Unit and the PHO laboratory Medical Microbiologist or your local PHO laboratory.

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

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

Diphtheria culture

Swab from: Throat, nose, nasopharynx/nasopharyngeal, membranous material, tonsillar fossae, posterior pharynx, or uvula

Swab in transport media provided in kit

Amies Charcoal Transport Media; Kit Order #300229

Submission and Collection Notes


Swabs should be taken from inflamed areas of the throat, nose and nasopharynx in symptomatic patients. If present, membranous material should also be submitted.


For detection of asymptomatic carriers, nasopharyngeal and throat swabs (tonsillar fossae, posterior pharynx and uvula) should be collected.

Timing of Specimen Collection

Specimens should be collected during the acute phase of illness and delivered to the lab as soon as possible.

Storage and Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHO laboratory on ice packs.

Storage/transit time should be within 3 days of collection.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

The Diphtheria culture is set up daily, Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is up to 5 days from receipt by PHO laboratory.

Test Methods

Swabs are set up on bacterial culture medium for identification and isolates of C. diphtheriae are tested for toxigenicity.


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

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

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Updated 20 July 2020