Bordetella pertussis Culture  

IMPORTANT! Pre-approval needed from state or local health department. Local or State Health Department. Send approval to or call (402) 559-9444.

NPHL has moved to an electronic ordering system, NUlirt, and it is now the preferred method to order all tests. Once ordered, print a "batch list" (see NUlirt Guide).

Forms Required - Nulirt batch list or NPHL Test Request Form (completed in entirety) must accompany the specimen to include the following information: symptoms and date of onset, pregnancy status, travel and vaccine history. Testing will not be performed without all required information.

Please call NPHL Client Services at (402) 559-2440 or toll free at (800) 334-0459 for further clarification.


Test: Bordetella pertussis Culture
Order in NUlirt or complete NPHL Test Order Form  
Synonym: Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Culture  
Method: Bacterial Culture  
Availability: Daily; results within 7 days  
Specimen: Posterior nasopharyngeal swab (throat or anterior nasal swabs not acceptable) or nasopharyngeal aspirate - flush posterior nasopharynx with a saline  wash (preferred specimen). Swabs are available from NPHL Client Services .  
Collection Device: Nasopharyngeal wash: sterile container or Nasopharyngeal swab: swab tip must be polyester (such as Dacron®), rayon, or nylon-flocked with a flexible wire handle and contain Amies medium with charcoal medium for transport  
Volume: Minimum of 0.5 mL for nasopharyngeal wash  

Prior to and during shipment: Refrigerate 2-8°C immediately after collection. Ship as soon as possible.
Shipping instructions, including specimen-handling requirements during transport:
Package and ship as UN3373 Category B, Biological Substance. Place in biohazard bag with absorbent material. Ship specimen in insulated Category B box with frozen gel-packs. Transport by NPHL ground courier. If courier not available, ship by FedEx, UPS or USPS (1st Class, Priority or Express Mail). Follow appropriate DOT/IATA Regulation Guidelines. For assistance, call NPHL State Training Coordinator at (402) 559-3590. See instructions and shipping address:
Nulirt packing list must accompany specimens. 

Unacceptable: Incorrect collection device such as swabs that are cotton or calcium alginate tipped, wooden shafted, and those used to collect throat specimens; specimen not transported in Amies Charcoal medium; respiratory aspirates in collection containers with tubing; frozen specimen; improper specimen (i.e., sputum); and specimen in viral transport medium.  
Specimen Stability: Stable at Refrigerated 2-8°C for 1 day  
Reference Interval: Negative for Bordetella pertussis  
Reportable Disease: Report positive results to local or state health department. Refer to Nebraska DHHS Title 173, Communicable Diseases.  
Comments: Pre-approval needed from state or local health department.  Send approval to or call (402) 559-9444.
Test Performed at CDC
Consult the laboratory for collection/delivery instructions if transport time is greater than 24 hours. Culture is considered the gold standard test for diagnosing pertussis in children. Culture must be taken from nasopharyngeal specimens collected between 0 to 2 weeks post symptom onset. Adults are rarely positive by culture. The diagnostic sensitivity of culture is < 60% and highly dependent on specimen collection, transportation, and laboratory techniques. Thus a negative culture does not exclude the possibility of B. pertussis infection.  
Revised: 3/21/2021 
If you have questions about proper specimen collection, please call NPHL Client Services at (402) 559-2440 or toll free at (800) 334-0459.