Sample Collection Information

The UCSF Clinical Laboratories is proud to offer COVID-19 RNA testing to institutional partners throughout California, including free testing for all California Departments of Public Health. If you are interested in sending samples to UCSF for COVID-19 RNA testing, please contact our outreach coordinator at C[email protected].


General collection information can be found below and further details are in our online test menu.


Background information on COVID-19 testing (both RT-PCR and serology) can be found in our COVID-19 testing reference document.



The preferred sample for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a combined oropharyngeal (OP) plus either nasopharyngeal (NP) or mid-turbinate nares specimen. Specimens can be collected from both sites with a single NP flocked swab, OP flocked swab or OP synthetic swab.  If a combined nasal/OP specimen cannot be obtained, a single site (NP or OP) sample is acceptable. Please do not use calcium alginate swabs or swabs with wooden shafts.


While 1-3mL VTM/UTM is the preferred transport media, the following alternatives are acceptable:


  • DNA/RNA Shield (1x)
  • Labs can create their own viral transport media.
  • Dry swab in sterile saline (NOTE: Phosphate buffered saline (PBS) is not accetable for testing at UCSF).
    • Supplies: (see below)
    • Storage: Up to 72 hours at 4, or frozen for longer storage.
  • Starswab


Nasopharyngeal swabs:

  • Puritan: 25-3316-H, 25-3316-U, 25-3317-H, 25-3317-U, 25-3318-H, 25-3318-U, 25-3319-H, 25-3319-U, 25-3320-H, 25-3320-U, 25-3320-H EMB 80, 25-3320-U EMB 80, 25-3320-H EMB 100, 25-3320-U EMB 100, 25-1406 1PF 50ff, 25-800 1PD 50**, and 25-800 1PD ALUM 50**
  • Copan: 503CS01, 518CS01, 501CS01, and 502CS01
  • BD: 220252 and 220251
  • DHI/Quidel: 503CS01.DHI
  • Fisher Healthcare : 23600952, 23600956 and 23600950

Oropharyngeal swabs:

  • Puritan: 25-1506 1PF SOLIDf, 25-1506 1PF 100f, 25-3206-H, 25-3206-U, 25-3706-H, 25-806 1PD** and 25-806 1PD BT**
  • Copan: 502CS01, 519CS01, 164KS01** and 175KS01**
  • BD: 220250
  • Fisher Healthcare: 23600950, 23600957 and 1490650**

Mid-Turbinate swabs:

  • Copan: 56380CS01, 56750CS01, 56780CS01

Anteriror Nares swabs:

  • Puritan: 25-3206-H, 25-3206-U, 25-3706-H, 25-1506 1PF 100f , 25-1506 1PF solid f, 25-1506 1PF BTf, 25-1506 1PF TT MCf, 25-1506 2PF BT f, 25-1406 1PF BT***f
  • Copan: 502CS01, 519CS01
  • BD: 220144f, 220145 f, 220250
  • DHI/Quidel: 20103f
  • Fisher Healthcare: 23600950, 23600957

f Foam swab
** Polyester swab


Collection kits including transport media:

  • Copan: 305C, 307C, 360C and 519CS01*
  • Puritan: UT-367, UT-317, UT-302*, UT-366** and UT-300***
  • Hardy/Healthlink: 330CHL
  • BD: 220526, 220527, 220528*, 220529, 220531
  • DHI/Quidel: 330C***
  • Fisher Healthcare: 23001718, 23600952, 23600956, 23600950 and 23600957*
  • PrimeStore MTM: LH-1-02 and LH-1-03***

* flocked oropharyngeal swab
** Polyester swab
*** no swab


Transport vials with normal saline:

  • ThermoFisher: R064430, R064432, R064434, R064436 and R064438
  • Hardy/Healthlink: D185, K248, R45 and R55
  • Edge Biologicals: T-0625 and T-0110f