Newcastle Laboratories

Mycobacteriology (TB)

The Regional Centre for Mycobacteria


Tuberculosis is a severe respiratory disease (although other forms affecting kidneys and skin etc. can be seen). Samples from patients suspected of having TB and related micro-organisms are handled in special high containment laboratories to protect laboratory workers and the general public from spread of the disease.

Samples such as sputum and urine are examined under the microscope for TB bacteria and are also cultured in sealed bottles. TB is relatively slow growing and may take a number of weeks to appear. A more rapid method that detects specific TB DNA can be used for rapid diagnosis. This laboratory is based at the Freeman Hospital.

Our department is also able to offer testing to determine the antimicrobial susceptibility of rapidly growing nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) including Mycobacterium fortuitum group (M. fortuitum, M. peregrinum, M. fortuitum third biovariant complex), M. chelonae, M. abscessus complex, M. mucogenicum) and M. smegmatis group (M. smegmatis, M. goodii, M. wolinskyi). Nocardia spp and other aerobic actinomycetes. Slowly growing NTM, i.e. Mycobacterium avium complex, Mycobacterium kansasii and Mycobacterium marinum.


Quantiferon testing information

  • Patients’ blood should be collected in the 4 Quantiferon blood tubes – Negative Control (Grey), TB1 (Green), TB2 (Yellow) and Mitogen (Purple).
    Each of tube must contain 1ml of blood (Lithium Heparin (3 tubes, 1ml in each) or Quantiferon (4 Tubes, 1ml in each). More or less than 1ml renders the test inaccurate; such samples will not be tested and repeat samples will be requested.
  • The samples must arrive within 16 hours of venepuncture otherwise the test should not be performed.


Before 4pm:

Once collected, Quantiferon Gold samples must be submitted to the laboratory by 4pm on the day on which it is drawn. If the collection time is approaching this deadline, the sending department should inform lab staff of the imminent arrival of these samples so we can look out for their arrival. The direct telephone number for the TB laboratory is 0191 213 8787. A call should also be made to the Blood sciences reception area if the sample is being collected or dropped off at the RVI. The direct line is 24718 Option 1.

After 4pm:

If the sample is taken after this cut off it may still be possible to send. Please communicate with the MV laboratory in the first instance. The sample will need to be sent directly to MV at FH using a hot car or blood bike. The sending dept. must arrange this by contacting the Transport Team on ex 31818 to make an urgent Hot Car request. The MV laboratory must be made aware of the arrangement so they can support the receipt of this samples out of core hours.

Until the sample is received in the MV department, we have little control over the sample.