considerations for packaging and shipping dried blood microsamples
Advances in technology mean that nowadays just a few drops of dried blood on a dried blood spot (DBS) card (or other dried blood microsampling device) is enough biological material to yield reliable clinical results from remote sample collections.
But this reliability can depend on the way that these dried blood microsamples are packed and shipped. So how should you prepare a dried blood microsampling devices for safe shipping?
Packaging Dried Blood Samples
Shipping dried blood microsamples requires triple-layer packaging. Together, the three levels levels of containment ensure substantial safety from accidental exposure and preserve the integrity of the specimen.
If the sample is a DBS card, it's important that the primary container for the paper matrix be waterproof so that moisture doesn't taint the sample. You should label this container with the international biohazard symbol, though risk of infectious disease spread is low due to the sample being dried.
Enclose the primary container in a secondary container, which should have an inner envelope or fold-over flap that secures the specimen. This secondary container should also be watertight to prevent contamination.
A sturdy, high-quality paper outer envelope serves as the third containment layer.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the United States Postal Service consider DBS specimens non-regulated, exempt materials. DBS specimens can be shipped by mail or other carrier with no reasonable expectations of occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material. Use “standard precautions” when collecting and preparing DBS specimens for shipment and comply with local regulations and institutional policies. Each shipping service has different requirements for how they handle biological specimens. Review the following information related to shipping dried blood samples via FedEx.
Every package — no matter its contents — shipped overseas via FedEx requires a commercial invoice on your institution's or company's letterhead, otherwise FedEx will not deliver a package overseas.
Precisely describe the package's contents on the commercial invoice. The commercial invoice also requires that you enter the item's value, which can be $0 but must be the same as the value claimed on the waybill.
Sign the commercial invoice.
Sending biological materials via FedEx requires a completed form called the Expanded Service International Waybill. An International Waybill is different; to make sure you have the correct form, the Expanded Service International Waybill is an 11-inch tall form that includes a box called "Shipment Information." On the biological shipments form, you need to enter the waybill number.
Sign the waybill and provide the waybill number to the recipient in case the package is delayed by customs.
Dried blood microsamples don't have the same strict temperature requirements as blood vials, so their packaging specifications and shipping speeds might differ. When shipping biological specimens internationally, make sure that the receiving country doesn't have a holiday during which mail isn't delivered so you can avoid unexpected delays.
For simplified shipping, FedEx provides a clinical pack specifically for shipping biological substances. For items that are considered Biological Substance Category B (UN3373), FedEx requires the clinical pack. FedEx will not accept this type of biological specimens if you pack them in any other type of FedEx-labeled packing boxes.
For dried blood samples in particular, use of a clinical pack is optional; FedEx will accept them in other packaging.
For additional information about the international shipping of dried blood samples, see these websites:
- International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories Best Practices
- International Air Transport Association
Do you have any other tips to share about packaging and shipping dried blood samples? If so, please share them below.