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Laboratory Services

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) Division of Disease Control (DDC) works with health care providers to ensure access to diagnostic and laboratory services for diseases and conditions that are contagious and/or affect the public's health.

Acute Communicable Diseases

Reference Laboratory Testing

Description: PDPH can facilitate confirmatory testing for select notifiable conditions (e.g. respiratory viruses, measles, mumps, West Nile Virus, rickettsial infections, etc.) along with emerging infections such as MERS-CoV, novel influenza, and viral hemorrhagic fevers. Reference laboratory testing may include serology, culture, and PCR analyses among other test types.
Contact: For assistance with Reference Laboratory Testing, call 215-685-6740 and ask to speak to someone in Acute Communicable Disease.

Rabies Testing

Description: The Acute Communicable Disease Program can approve rabies testing of animals involved in the bite, scratch, or other related exposure of humans. Testing is performed at the PDPH Public Health Laboratory.
Contact: For assistance with Molecular Subtyping, call 215-685-6740 and ask to speak to someone in Acute Communicable Disease.


Description: PDPH requests that all meningococcal, Haeomphilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae (from children < 5 years of age) isolates are serogrouped. Serogrouping is arranged by PDPH and performed at the PDPH Public Health Laboratory, Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories (PABOL), or Wisconsin State Public Health Laboratory.

Enteric pathogens (e.g. Salmonella and Shigella) may be serotyped at PABOL or the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Contact:For assistance with serogrouping/serotyping, call 215-685-6740 and ask to speak to someone in Acute Communicable Disease.

Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE)

Description: PDPH can facilitate PFGE for enteric pathogens and select vaccine-preventable and multi-drug resistant organisms at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the exception of enteric pathogens, the use of PFGE is reserved for epidemiological investigations only.
Contact: For assistance with Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis, call 215-685-6740 and ask to speak to someone in Acute Communicable Disease.

Advanced Molecular Diagnostics

Description: In certain epidemiological investigations, PDPH can coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist with advanced molecular testing such as viral hepatitis quasispecies analyses, Multiple Locus Variable-number Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA), whole genome sequencing, and other advanced molecular diagnostic techniques as they emerge.
Contact: For assistance with Advanced Molecular Diagnostics, call 215-685-6740 and ask to speak to someone in Acute Communicable Disease.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB Diagnostic Testing

Description: PDPH can provide assistance with PPD placement and readings. Patients needing a chest X-Ray can be referred to a Health Center.
Contact: For assistance with TB diagnostic testing, call 215-685-6873.

TB Laboratory Testing

Description: PDPH facilitates the following TB laboratory tests: AFB smears, Mycobacterium ID and Primary & Secondary Drug Susceptibilities, Genotyping.
Contact: For assistance with these TB laboratory services, call 215-685-6873.

Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Darkfield Examinations

Description: Darkfield examinations and other tests to detect T. pallidum in lesion exudate or tissue are the definitive methods for diagnosing early syphilis.
Contact: Clinicians can refer patient to the walk-in STD clinic at Health Center 1 to be seen by Health Department Physicians who will conduct darkfield examinations on appropriate patient lesions.

Serologic Testing

Description: A presumptive diagnosis of syphilis is possible with the use of two types of serologic tests:

  1. nontreponemal tests (e.g., Venereal Disease Research Laboratory [VDRL] and RPR)
  2. treponemal tests (e.g., fluorescent treponemal antibody absorbed [FTA-ABS] tests, the T. pallidum passive particle agglutination [TP-PA] assay, various EIAs, and chemiluminescence immunoassays).

Contact: Non-hospital based practices can obtain free serologic testing for syphilis. Contact the Division of Disease Control at 215-685-6737 to coordinate testing.