Making Sense of Biological Safety Levels - Terra Universal Blog

Biosafety Level 2 Bacteria List

Bacteria / July 9, 2018

Biological Agents, Work Practices, Safety Equipment, and Facility Design Specific to Each

A very specialized research laboratory that deals with infectious agents is the biosafety lab. Whether performing research or production activities, when working with infectious materials, organisms or perhaps even laboratory animals, the proper degree of protection is of utmost importance. Protection for laboratory personnel, the environment and the local community must be considered and ensured. The protections required by these types of activities are defined as biosafety levels. Biological safety levels are ranked from one to four and are selected based on the agents or organisms on which the research or work is being conducted. Each level up builds on the previous level, adding constraints and barriers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are our main sources for biological safety information for infectious agents. The publication Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories1 is a principal reference and the resource for much of the information presented in this month’s column. As an introduction, we summarize what the different biosafety levels encompass in terms of the typical biological agents used, safe work practices, specialized safety equipment (primary barriers) and facility design (secondary barriers).

The four biosafety levels were developed to protect against a world of select agents. These agents include bacteria, fungi, parasites, prions, rickettsial agents and viruses, the latter being probably the largest and most important group. In many instances the work or research involves vertebrate animals, everything from mice to cattle. When vertebrates are involved, additional precautions and safety requirements are necessary. Using the most infectious agents also means extensive security measures are in place, not only because of their virulence but also because of their potential for use in bioterrorism.

Level 1

Biosafety level one, the lowest level, applies to work with agents that usually pose a minimal potential threat to laboratory workers and the environment and do not consistently cause disease in healthy adults. Research with these agents is generally performed on standard open laboratory benches without the use of special containment equipment. BSL 1 labs are not usually isolated from the general building. Training on the specific procedures is given to the lab personnel, who are supervised by a trained microbiologist or scientist.