The Basics: What You Need To Know About Biocontainment

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The Basics: What You Need To Know About Biocontainment

Summation

  • Thanks to the progress of technology, the global death rate has decreased, and in addition to hygiene (which has been brought to a high level) and the greater awareness of the masses about a healthy way of life, the greatest credit goes to the huge research centres around the world.
  • A basic lab setting, for example, specialized in the investigation of nonlethal agents that represent minimum potential harm to lab employees and the environment is commonly referred to as BSL-1—the lowest biosafety lab level.
  • The broad definition refers to the containment and methods of isolation of hazardous pathogens, viruses, infected patients in health institutions, and the handling of bio-material all for the purpose of control and contagion.

Thanks to the progress of technology, the global death rate has decreased, and in addition to hygiene (which has been brought to a high level) and the greater awareness of the masses about a healthy way of life, the greatest credit goes to the huge research centres around the world. Those research centres and facilities bring new discoveries that help humanity and save countless lives. However, every new discovery brings with it new risks, and the centres where various experiments are conducted are also places that can be dangerous for their employees as well as the outside world.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that appropriate regulations and protocols are implemented to prevent a potential pandemic or endanger the health of the people working there. In addition to safety protocols, those buildings must meet the requirements of adequate biocontainment. You might ask, what is biocontainment? In the text, we’ll discuss the basics and all you need to know regarding the matter.

Biocontainment

The broad definition refers to the containment and methods of isolation of hazardous pathogens, viruses, infected patients in health institutions, and the handling of bio-material all for the purpose of control and contagion. Biocontainment, therefore, is most needed in all research facilities, laboratories, health institutions, diagnostic and modular labs, and even veterinary medical clinics and research centres. All areas with a high chance of possible infection and pathogen spread.

The many methods and tactics of proper isolation are being carefully studied by experts, with the purpose of minimalizing any risk factors. Of course, biocontainment methods can be implemented in existing facilities, developing, or the ones which are still in their design phase. These methods and tactics are of crucial importance as they prevent any spread of unwanted contagious materials and hazardous bio-waste which might come in contact with the outside world or the employees within.

The different levels of biocontainment

Biological Safety Levels (BSL) are a set of safeguards applied to autoclave-related activities carried out in specific biological labs. Individual measures are in place to protect laboratory staff, as well as the surrounding environment and community.

These levels, numbered one through four, are chosen based on the agents or organisms being studied or worked on in any given laboratory setting. A basic lab setting, for example, specialized in the investigation of nonlethal agents that represent minimum potential harm to lab employees and the environment is commonly referred to as BSL-1—the lowest biosafety lab level. A specialist research laboratory dealing with potentially lethal infectious agents such as Ebola would be classified BSL-4—the highest and most restrictive category.

BSL–1

Biosafety level 1 is the lowest of the four and is applied to laboratory settings where employees work with low-risk microorganisms that represent little to no danger of infection in healthy adults. A nonpathogenic strain of E. coli can serve as an example of a microorganism handled at this safety level.

Typically, this laboratory setup comprises of research conducted on benches without the use of specialized contamination equipment. A BSL-1 lab, which does not need to be segregated from other facilities, houses activities that simply require normal microbiological practices.

BSL–2

This biosafety level applies to laboratories that operate with agents associated with human diseases (i.e. pathogenic or infectious organisms) that offer a moderate health risk. BSL-2 agents commonly worked with include equine encephalitis viruses, HIV, and Staphylococcus aureus (staph infections).

BSL-2 laboratories follow the same standard microbiological standards as BSL-1 laboratories, but with additional safeguards in place due to the potential risk posed by the aforementioned bacteria. Personnel working in BSL-2 labs are expected to take extra precautions to avoid injuries such as cuts and other skin breaches, as well as ingesting and mucous membrane exposures.

BSL-3

A BSL-3 laboratory, which builds on the previous two biosafety levels, often includes study on microorganisms that are either indigenous or foreign and can cause serious or perhaps death disease through inhalation. Yellow fever, West Nile virus, and tuberculosis-causing bacteria are examples of microbes experimented with in a BSL 3, because the germs are so dangerous, the work is frequently rigorously supervised and registered with the proper government organizations. Laboratory employees are likewise under medical surveillance and may be immunized against the germs with which they operate.

BSL-4

BSL-4 laboratories are uncommon. However, some do exist in a few areas in the United States and around the world. A BSL-4 lab, the greatest level of biological safety, involves working with exceedingly dangerous and unusual bacteria. Infections produced by these microorganisms are sometimes fatal, and there is no treatment or vaccine available. The Ebola and Marburg viruses are two examples of such microorganisms.

Equipment

Laboratory techniques and the use of containment devices within the laboratory are the principal methods of physical containment. Biosafety cabinets (BSCs), personal protective equipment (PPE), enclosed containers, and other controls meant to remove or reduce exposure to hazardous biological contaminants are examples of safety equipment.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is specific clothing or equipment worn by laboratory workers to give an additional layer of safety while handling infectious agents or poisons. PPE may comprise masks, gloves, safety glasses, lab coats or gowns, and other protective gear. PPE is used to protect laboratory employees from infectious agents or poisons while they are working in the lab. PPE is utilized in all biological laboratories and at all levels of biosafety.

Design and Construction

The architecture and architectural aspects of a biological laboratory provide primary barrier protection against the unintentional escape of infectious agents or poisons outside the laboratory. The facility’s design and structure help to protect laboratory employees. It also serves as a barrier to protect humans, animals, and the environment outside of the laboratory from infectious agents or toxins that may be mistakenly expelled from the laboratory. Laboratory design is one of the “engineering controls” employed in laboratory biosafety.

Animal laboratories necessitate additional design considerations to accommodate feeding, housing, handling, and containment. Animal Biosafety Levels (ABSL) or Biosafety Level – Agriculture are used to categorize these laboratories (BSL-Ag).

Of course, the precautious measures apply to staff, and procedures and carefully planned protocols must be respected at all times. These strategies have seen a recent development due to the rising demands of the medical research industry, but the methodology has been known to us since the very beginning. The technological advancements we made in the past decades made it possible to perfect the methods and make research and medical facilities safer.