Bordetella Pertussis Culture

Brief Description

For diagnosis of Pertussis, please also see Bordetella pertussis, Bordetella. parapertussis, and Bordetella. holmesii by real-time PCR.  The Bacteriology Unit accepts cultures for Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis in conjunction with PCR. Specimens may be sent from public and private health care providers.

Bacterial culture for pertussis is most useful during the first 2 weeks of cough and prior to antibiotic use. PCR may effectively diagnose pertussis from 2–4 weeks of cough onset, although sensitivity declines after 3 weeks. Appropriate serologic assays are most useful in the 2–8 weeks following cough onset; however, this testing is not confirmatory for the purpose of case reporting. Diagnostic testing at inappropriate times may result in both false-positive and false-negative results, reducing the overall quality of pertussis diagnosis, and ultimately, pertussis surveillance.

Culture is done to identify B. pertussis, B. parapertussis, B. bronchiseptica, and B. holmesii.

Laboratory Unit




Specimen Collection

  • Nasopharyngeal Swab:
  • Nasopharyngeal aspirates:
    • Minimum volume of collection is 500µl in Regan Lowe Transport media.
  • ​​​​​​​Culture isolates:
    • Inoculate a pure culture onto a slant or plate of charcoal agar with horse blood, such as Regan-Lowe medium, and send to GPHL within 24 hours or incubate at 35°C under high humidity.  Schedule sub-culture so that time between optimal growth and transport of culture is < 24 hours. 


  • Swab:
    • Regan Lowe semisolid transport medium tube is recommended. Ship specimen at room temperature (15-30 °C). If a shipping delay is anticipated, use the refrigerated (2-8 °C) shipping outfit.
  • ​​​​​​​Culture:
    • Isolates must be shipped using ambient (15-30 °C) specimen outfit within 24 hours.
  • Download this pdf file. FRM-QA 4 Refrigeration Outfit Guide

Acceptable Specimen Type(s)

  • Nasopharyngeal swab or aspirate
  • Culture

Test Request

Possible Results

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Unsatisfactory
  • Note: A Negative culture does NOT rule out pertussis.

Reference Range


Unacceptable Conditions

  • Cotton-tipped or calcium alginate swabs
  • Specimens that are not labeled with the patient's name or identifier
  • Specimens that are more than 5 days in transit, received warm, or sent with expired media
  • Throat, bronchial, and sputum specimens.
  • Missing testing requisition
  • Missing minimum of 2 patient identifiers
  • Improper specimen labeling
  • Specimens damaged, broken, or leaking upon arrival

Interfering Substances


Result Reported

7-10 business days (culture)


Download this pdf file. Fee schedule

LOINC/Order Codes

6317-2 (Order code 1050)

Additional Information