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Special note - microbiology services:

  • please provide us with a minimum of 5 days advanced notice for microbiology sample analysis,
  • please contact us at before you despatch your samples so that we can ensure we can process them upon receipt,
  • we are currently unable to accept Total Viable Count samples on a Friday.

Our Microbiology Service can help you assess the risks from exposure to microorganisms or materials that may contain microorganisms. The standard testing services we provide are outlined below. For enquires about these, please contact Sample Registration.

Total Viable Bacterial and Fungal counts

Total bacterial and fungal levels are assessed by growth on a range of solid culture media incubated under appropriate conditions. Total levels of viable bacteria and fungi are assessed and predominant culturable species are determined. Assessment can be carried out on air samples, wipe samples and bulk samples, including metal working fluids, water and soil.  Most sample types can be considered for analysis.

Anthrax testing

Anthrax has historically been associated with the handling of skins from infected animals. If an individual breathes in the spores they can develop lesions within their lungs, causing flu-like symptoms and breathing difficulties that may cause death within days if left untreated.

Our scientists use a combination of live culture and molecular analysis methods to detect B. anthracis within our Containment Level 3 laboratory. We have extensive experience of analysing lath and plaster samples from old buildings and soil samples from potentially contaminated land.

Presence or absence of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, is assessed using DNA and culture-based methods. Microbiological work is performed within HSE's Microbiological Containment Level 3 facility. Analysis for B. anthracis can be carried out on air samples, wipe samples and bulk materials, including soil and plaster. For bulk samples, approximately 10g sample is routinely used in the test, although smaller samples can be analysed. Our Sample Registration Team will provide appropriate containers for transportation of samples.

If you would like to send samples to us for analysis please contact Sample Reception who will supply sample pots and appropriate packaging so the samples can be sent safely through the mail.

It is important that samples that may contain anthrax are packaged safely and securely. HSE will supply sample kits with the necessary containers and packaging to be used for transportation to HSE's Science and Research Centre Buxton. These kits are available on request and are free of charge.

Please pre-book Anthrax testing with Sample Reception to avoid delays. We may have periods where testing is postponed.


Endotoxin is a component of the cell envelope of all Gram-negative bacteria and is commonly found in the environment. Endotoxin can cause ill-health via inhalation in those repeatedly exposed to raised levels, irrespective of whether the bacteria are live, dead, whole or fragmented, and there are many working environments where high levels of endotoxin are believed to cause respiratory symptoms. HSE uses a widely accepted, validated and automated quantitative kinetic assay system for endotoxin analysis. Exposure monitoring can be performed from static air and personal air samples (providing information about specific task-related exposures), wipe samples and bulk samples (liquid, organic material etc.). HSE can advise on or assist with air sampling methods and can provide trained field scientists to obtain samples if required.

Please book Endotoxin testing with Sample Reception so that we can advise on timescales.

Bespoke Services

In addition to the services listed above, we are able to carry out a range of bespoke testing services for the molecular identification of bacteria by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), with qualitative tests available for a wide range of fungi and bacteria.

The HSE Microbiology Team has a wide range of experience in bacteriology, mycology and virology and access to extensive facilities, including a 34m3 controlled atmosphere chamber that can be used for controlled release of bioaerosols or microbiological decontamination studies that require the use of hazardous chemicals.  We are able to carry out bespoke project work tailored to customer requirements.

Desk based information gathering

The HSE Microbiology Team has experience in the area of information gathering and literature reviews and is able to carry out literature searching and data gathering to customer requirements.

For further information on bespoke services please contact Sample Registration

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