Petri dish with bacteria
Petri dish with bacteria

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory has many clinical bacteriology testing areas; more information about each can be found below.


The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory (VDHL) offers screening for enteric bacterial pathogens from stool samples. The Enteric Bacteriology test area isolates and identifies those bacteria most commonly associated with food-borne illnesses through a combination of culture, biochemical, and enzyme immunoassay tests. Stool samples must be submitted in a culture and sensitivity media (VDHL Kit # 1 containing modified Cary-Blair medium), which is provided by Customer Service at no charge.

Health care providers may order enteric screening VDHL # 1 kits from the laboratory, or patients may pick up kits at the laboratory if they bring a note from a health care provider with the request.

Specimens submitted for an Enteric Screen are tested for the following organisms:

  • Salmonella

  • Shigella

  • Campylobacter

  • E. coli O157

  • Shiga- toxin producing E. coli

  • Yersinia

  • Vibrio (upon request)

  • Aeromonas (upon request)

Hospital laboratories that test for or isolate certain enteric pathogens are required under the Vermont Department of Health’s Reportable and Communicable Disease Rule to submit them to the Laboratory for confirmation and PFGE testing. Hospitals are required to submit positive cultures/specimens for Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli O157 Shiga- toxin producing E. coli, Yersinia and Vibrio. Slants, CNS media, VDHL Kit #1 and plates are accepted.

Hospital laboratories in Vermont that perform Culture Independent Diagnostic Tests (CIDT) may submit stool samples in CNS or a VDHL Kit #1. 

For more information on enteric diseases from the CDC.


The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory serves as a referral laboratory for the culture and identification of bacterial isolates that may be of public health significance. Clinical samples may be acceptable for primary isolation, but otherwise pure isolates are required for identification and serotyping.  

Laboratories experiencing difficulties with identification of certain organisms may contact our Reference Laboratory for possible referral to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

Note: Anaerobic testing is not performed at Vermont Department of Health Laboratory.

The following services are available from the Reference Bacteriology Lab:

  • Culture and Identification of Neisseria gonorrhoeae

  • Identification and Serotyping of Neisseria meningitidis

  • Serotyping of Haemophilis influenza from sterile sites

  • Culture and Identification of Legionella spp.

  • Serotyping of Salmonella spp. 

  • Confirmation of E.coli O157:H7

  • Identification of Shiga-toxin producing E.coli, non-O157:H7

  • Identification and grouping of Shigella spp.

  • Serotyping of Vibrio cholerae (Ogawa and Inaba)

  • Culture and Identification of Campylobacter species

  • Culture and Identification of Listeria spp.

  • Phenotypic and genotypic analysis of Carbapenemase producing enterobacteriacea

  • Identification of Yersinia enterocolitica

  • Identification of Aeromonas species.

For more information from the CDC:

Bordetella pertussis/ parapertussis (Whooping Cough)

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory utilizes two assays for detection of Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis from nasopharyngeal swabs.

  • The PCR test amplifies the genetic material of the bacteria when present in a sample so that it can be detected. Testing is usually performed on Mondays and Thursdays.

  • Pertussis culture allows the recovery of the bacteria in order to investigate potential outbreaks. Typically a pertussis culture and PCR test can both be ordered as early in the illness as possible. Culture results are available seven days after sample receipt.

More information from the Health Department on whooping cough

For more information from the CDC on whooping cough

For specimen collection from the CDC

Chlamydia trachomatis/Neisseria gonorrhoeae

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory offers a nucleic acid amplified test (Kit #7) for simultaneous detection of chlamydia and gonorrhea from:

  • Urine

  • Endocervical swabs

  • Patient collected vaginal swabs

Find information on Vermont’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) program and services.

Find more information on sexually transmitted diseases from the CDC.

Brucella and Francisella

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (Brucella species). The most common ways people acquire the disease is by consuming undercooked meat or unpasteurized dairy products, breathing in bacteria, or entry through a wound after touching an infected animal. Animals that are most commonly infected include sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and dogs. 

Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Humans can become infected through tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals, drinking contaminated water, or breathing in contaminated aerosols or agricultural dusts.

When the human body is invaded by disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, it responds in several ways to combat the invader. One response is in the production of antibodies by the body. The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory performs agglutination tests to detect Brucella or Francisella antibodies in blood serum specimens.

For the optimal test interpretation, two serum specimens should be submitted. The first specimen should be collected while the patient is exhibiting symptoms. The second should be collected two to three weeks later. A significant increase in the antibody level between the two specimens could indicate an exposure to Brucella or Francisella. 

More information from the Health Department on Francisella

More information from the CDC on Brucellosis


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can have serious health complications if not treated early. 

Two Syphilis blood serum tests are performed at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory. 

RPR – The Rapid Plasma Reagin test is a non-treponemal test. When a person is infected with syphilis,  cellular damage occurs, resulting in the release of specific lipids into the bloodstream. The RPR test detects antibodies produced by the body against these specific lipids. The RPR test can be used to gauge how effective treatment is, as the test will become negative when the person is successfully treated.  The RPR test can result in false positives, especially if a patient has other underlying health conditions such as lupus or rheumatic fever. The Laboratory will confirm all positive RPR results with a treponemal test. (FTA-ABS test). 

FTA-ABS  - The Treponemal Antibody-Absorption test is a treponemal test. Treponemal tests look for antibodies produced by the body against the bacteria itself (Treponema pallidum). The FTA-ABS test is performed on all positive RPR test results to rule out the possibility of a false positive result. If the FTA-ABS test is positive, this confirms the patient has been exposed to the bacteria. The FTA-ABS test is not an acceptable test to determine how effective treatment is, due to the fact that patients who test FTA-ABS positive produce antibodies against Treponema pallidum for life. 

Find more information from the CDC on Syphilis.

Find information on Vermont’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) program and services.