Classification of patient specimens

This document does not change, amend or suggest deviations from the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Regulations. 

The purpose of this document is to provide clarity and regulatory guidance on the classification of patient specimens and to assist health care professionals who are responsible for preparing patients specimens for transport. This document is meant to be read with the TDG Bulletin – Shipping Infectious Substances.

On this page

Patient specimens

Patient specimens are those, collected directly from humans or animals, including, but not limited to, excreta, secreta, blood and its components, tissue and tissue fluid swabs, and body parts being transported for purposes such as research, diagnosis, investigational activities, disease treatment and prevention.

Patient specimens which may contain a Category A infectious substance listed in Subsection 2.36 (3) of the TDG Regulations must be transported as a UN2814, INFECTIOUS SUBSTANCES, AFFECTING HUMANS or UN2900, INFECTIOUS SUBSTANCES, AFFECTING ANIMALS only, as applicable.

Do you know or have access to the patient’s medical history?

Section A: When the patient’s medical history is known

Where a professional assessment* concludes that the patient specimen is unlikely to contain an infectious substance, the patient specimen can be classified as “Exempt Human Specimen” and be shipped under the requirements of Section 1.42 of the TDG Regulations.

*Professional assessment must be performed by a knowledgeable individual. Factors such as the known medical history, symptoms and individual circumstances of the patient and endemic local conditions must be considered. Individual circumstances of the patient can include occupational or family setting which could lead to a higher probability of the specimen containing an infectious substance.

Endemic local conditions are areas or communities for which the contamination rate of the population is known to be higher than that of the general public on a larger scale.

Section A doesn’t apply? Go to Section B

Section B: When the patient’s medical history is unknown or unavailable

When the patient’s medical history is unknown or not available or if the patient specimen may contain a Category B infectious substance, the patient specimen must be classified as UN3373, CATEGORY B INFECTIOUS SUBSTANCES and all applicable requirements of the TDG Regulations must be complied with.

However, note that the exemption of Section 1.39 of the TDG Regulations, for Class 6.2, Infectious Substances, UN3373, BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCE, CATEGORY B, is applicable in this case.

Contact us

For questions related to the classification of patient specimens, contact the TDG Classification team.

For regulatory questions, contact the TDG regional office in your region:




Prairie & Northern Region