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Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

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Winter Shipping Keys

By Rachel Corn, VT

As we move into winter and colder temperatures, there are a few things to remember when shipping samples to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL).

Once your samples are picked up by UPS, FedEx, or the United States Postal Service, they may be subjected to very low temperatures. This could occur during transit, from being left overnight in a delivery truck or on a loading dock or in a warehouse. These cold conditions can have a negative impact on the quality of your diagnostic samples.

Below are some important ideas to consider when submitting specific sample-types in cold weather.

Fixed Tissue: It is important to prevent tissue from freezing during fixation. The fixation of tissue is not instantaneous, and tissues that freeze during the process can result in freezing artifacts. Freezing artifacts are caused by ice crystals that form within the tissue, and they can reduce the diagnostic value of your sample. 

The best way to prevent tissue from freezing during the fixation process is to lower the freezing point of the formalin. This can be done by adding 1 part isopropyl alcohol to 10 parts formalin.

If you order biopsy supplies from KSVDL, alcohol is already added to the kits sent out to you from October through April. The addition of alcohol can be verified by looking for a sticker on the formalin containers stating “Isopropyl alcohol added to prevent freezing.”

An additional way to help prevent freezing is to add substantial insulation or hand warmers to your shipping box to protect samples from outside temperatures.

Fresh Tissue: Freezing fresh tissue may cause cellular changes that negatively affect some diagnostic tests, in particular histopathology. The best way to prevent freezing fresh tissue is by making sure you have plenty of insulation surrounding the samples during transit. Towels, newspaper, and Styrofoam™ are all good insulation materials. Sending samples to KSVDL using shipping businesses and shipping options that minimize the transit time will also lessen the probability of freezing. 

Trichomonas samples: Trich samples can be especially difficult to ship in cold weather because they must be kept between 59°F and 99°F degrees from the time of collection until the sample is delivered to the KSVDL. (Please also remember the samples must arrive at the KSVDL within 72 hours of collection.)

There are several methods that can be used to assure the Trich samples are kept at the correct temperature during shipment. These include: 1) adding ample insulation around the samples, 2) adding hand warmers to the shipping container, and 3) shipping the samples for next-day delivery.

An option that reduces the temperature sensitive shipping requirements of Trich samples is to incubate them at 95° F at the clinic for 48 hours then freezing prior to shipment to KSVDL. The samples must be kept cold after freezing and during transit.  A note on the submission form stating that they were incubated and frozen prior to shipment will reduce the testing turnaround time.

The last thing to remember is that sometimes bad weather can delay delivery even if using expedited shipping services; therefore, packaging the samples and using the recommended methods mentioned above in anticipation of delivery delays will help assure your samples arrive in the best possible condition.

If you have any questions on packaging or testing please contact KSVDL Client Care at clientcare@vet.k-state.edu or 866-512-5650.

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