Collecting, storing, transporting and analysing biological specimens and food samples

The equipment and supplies required for biological specimen and food sample collection, transport, storage and analysis depend on the selection of biomarkers and related methods of analysis. Module 2: Indicators of programme coverage, specimen selection, management and analysis describes possible options and factors related to these decisions.

The list of equipment and supplies varies according to the following main factors:

  • the method of blood collection (venous or capillary) and type of blood fraction required for specific biomarker analysis;
  • specific nutrient-related equipment requirements (for example, zinc requires the use of zinc-free tubes);
  • the method of assessing haemoglobin for anaemia (field based or central laboratory);
  • inclusion of urine specimen collection (for example, for assessing iodine);
  • inclusion of stool specimen collection (for example, to assess parasitic infection);
  • types of household food sample(s) to be collected for analysis, for example salt, oil, sugar and flour; and
  • inclusion of the test for presence of food nutrients during fieldwork, for example iodine in salt, using a rapid test kit.

For each biological specimen or food sample, the equipment, supply and budget-related needs should be listed for the following categories, as appropriate:

  • biological specimen or food sample collection and handling (including disposal of collection devices and other supplies);
  • biological specimen or food sample labels (resistant to rubbing off);
  • bar code reader;
  • field testing of biological specimens (such as point of use haemoglobin testing) or food samples (such as rapid qualitative iodine testing for salt samples);
  • field processing of biological specimens (including adding ascorbic acid to whole blood for preserving or centrifuging whole blood and aliquoting serum prior to freezing specimens);
  • storage and transit to the central laboratory, including any power adapters required to use the power supply of the survey vehicle;
  • cold chain requirements;
  • storage at the laboratory; and
  • laboratory assessment and shipping costs if being sent to a laboratory out of the country.

The ”Equipment and supplies list (complex worksheet)” online tool provides a detailed list of supplies for collecting different biological specimens and food samples. This should be used together with the information in Module 2, Indicators of programme coverage, specimen selection, management and analysis and in Module 3: Biomarker selection and specimen handling” as well as the ”Standard operating procedures for ordering supplies and equipment” online tool, in consultation with experts in planning this type of fieldwork.

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