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A Brief Description of the Operation of the DoD Serum Repository.

Publication Status: Published

Sponsoring Organization: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Sponsoring Office: Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center

Congressionally Mandated: No

Funding Source: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Release Date/Publication: October 01, 2015

Principle Investigator Status: Government

Primary DoD Data Source: Other Clinical

Secondary DoD Data Source:


Beginning in 1985, the United States military has consistently maintained repositories of frozen human serum for force health protection reasons. The separate repositories created by the Army, Navy, and Air Force during the startup of their human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening programs were fully combined by 1996, along with the Defense Medical Surveillance System, to form the DoD Serum Repository (DoDSR). Currently comprised of 450,000 square feet of storage space at a constant -30 degrees Celsius, the DoDSR, operated by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC), receives approximately 2 million new serum specimens per year as a result of current HIV screening programs and pre- and post-deployment serum collection. Following initial testing for HIV when required, each specimen remains frozen until needed for clinical testing or a public health study, and its physical location is carefully tracked. Certain militarily-relevant research studies occur, though the serum from a specific individual is never allowed to be fully exhausted. AFHSC maintains careful control over the repository, utilizing a scientific review board to determine which requests for serum will be granted. As of 2012, only 0.42% of all of the frozen specimens in the DoDSR had been thawed for any type of use. The addition of new specimen processing capacity and significant changes to policy would be required if more of the specimens were to be used to answer relevant epidemiological, operational, or medical research questions.


Perdue CL, Eick-Cost AA, Rubertone MV. A Brief Description of the Operation of the DoD Serum Repository. Mil Med. 2015 Oct;180(10 Suppl):10-2.

Last Updated: April 07, 2020
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