Sputum should always be treated with care, and leakproof specimen containers should be used. This is particularly important if the postal service has to be used. Furthermore, it is advisable that all procedures involving sputum (even when tuberculosis is not mentioned on the request form) should be carried out in a bacteriological safety box. Even a home-made version is better than none at all.
Particular care needs to be taken when bottles are being opened, closed, or shaken, and when materials are being centrifuged. The production of infected aerosols may infect laboratory personnel and appropriate occupational health procedures should be applied.1
1 Technical guide for sputum examination for tuberculosis by direct microscopy. Bulletin of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Suppl. 2, 1978.
Transportation of cultures of M. tuberculosis through the post to the national reference laboratory presents special risks in the event of accidents or breakage of the container, and only approved containers and dispatch materials conforming to postal requirements should be used.