Coronavirus Handling & Biosafety Levels

30 Mar

Coronavirus Handling & Biosafety Levels

For the last few days, Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19) is what we are all talking about.

The importance of testing and prompt diagnosis has become evident to all. But what is involved in handling, processing, storing, and disposing the test specimen/samples or research material for drug discovery & development?

Whilst very little is known about this new form of coronavirus, the UK government has recently published interim guidance specifically for clinical diagnostic lab practice in England, accessible below.

COVID-19: safe handling and processing for samples in laboratories

It is important to note that this guidance is not for virus research laboratories.

As this is a novel virus, the ACDP (Advisory Committee on Harmful Pathogens) has agreed on a provisional classification of SARS-CoV-2 as a Hazard Group 3 (HG3) pathogen based on the current information1 and other coronavirus family agents e.g. SARS & MERS viruses.

With our background and capability in designing and delivering R&D and diagnostic laboratories, it would be prudent to provide some basics on various hazard group classification, biosafety levels and containment required for the safe handling of various pathogens.

Some key considerations during design phase of the facility include the principles of biosafety, listed below:

1. Laboratory Practices and Technique

2. Safety Equipment (Primary Barriers and Personal Protective Equipment)

3. Facility Design and Construction (Secondary Barriers)

At Bulb, we try to understand clients’ research area, lab practices, techniques and primary barriers they may use while designing secondary barriers through proper engineering controls.

For labs handling biological agents, COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) provide the following guidance for classification into one of four Hazard Groups (HGs).

Employers engaged in handling biological agents; HG1-4 shall ensure adequate control measures are undertaken to control exposure to employees by combination of containment measures taking into account2

(a) the nature of the activity

(b) the minimum containment level

(c) the risk assessment; and

(d) the nature of the biological agent concerned.

Generally,

Containment level 1 (Biosafety Level 1, BSL1 Lab) for activities which involve working with a Group 1 biological agent, HG1.

Containment level 2 (Biosafety Level 2, BSL2 Lab) for activities which involve working with a Group 2 biological agent, HG2.

Containment level 3 (Biosafety Level 3, BSL3 Lab) for activities which involve working with a Group 3 biological agent, HG3.

Containment level 4 (Biosafety Level 4, BSL4 Lab)for activities which involve working with a Group 4 biological agent, HG4.

With some exceptions and guidance by COSHH2.

Based on the above, one would expect SARS-CoV-2 to be HG4, however as mentioned earlier in the article, as this is a novel virus, the ACDP has agreed on a provisional classification of SARS-CoV-2 as a Hazard Group 3 (HG3) pathogen, based on the current information1 and other coronavirus family agents e.g. SARS & MERS. This might change in the future as the knowledge of the virus develops.

For now, guidance for the clinical diagnostic labs is as below.

“The UK govt has advised (as of on 20th March 2020) that samples for confirmation of known or presumptive positives must be processed at full containment level (CL3).

However, in light of the exceptional circumstances posed by SARS-CoV-2 and the potential impact on the diagnostic sector, a risk-based proportionate approach has been adopted in agreement with ACDP and HSE where certain laboratory activities can be undertaken within a MSC at containment level 2 (CL2)1”,

References:

1. GOV.UK: COVID-19: safe handling and processing for samples in laboratories
2. HSE: The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Approved Code of Practice and guidance

Dr Manisha Kulkarni
Head of Science & Technology
Bulb Laboratories

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Benching

Laboratory benching forms a central part of any laboratory and procuring the laboratory benching to suit your equipment needs and budget is important to us.

If you prefer fixed, robust benching or modular benching that offers flexibility and reconfiguration, our laboratory furniture manufacturers can deliver the perfect solution.

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Worktops

Depending on your research focus your worktop design requirements might change to allow:

  • Chemical resistance
  • Bacterial resistance
  • Water & moisture resistance
  • Durability & scratch resistance
  • Ease of cleaning
  • High impact

Trespa Toplab Base is the industry favourite, but we can offer alternative worktops such as Corian, Stainless Steel, Epoxy Resin, Hardwood, Phenolic Resin to match your needs.

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Shelving

We offer both wall mounted and benchtop shelving for reagents, typically in either 18mm MFMDF or 16mm Trespa Toplab Base. Wall shelving is mounted on a bracket system, while benchtop shelving is typically supported by fabricated steel frame.

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Fume Cupboards & Extract

Properly ventilated Fume Cupboards offer a safe way to handle chemicals and solvents in laboratories.

From ducted to portable ductless Fume Cupboards, our specialist and experienced partners are at hand to advise and install the right solution.

We provide Fume Cupboards manufactured and installed to meet the industry requirements (e.g. BS EN 14175) in various sizes (External Width 1000mm - 1200mm - 1500mm - 1800mm - 2000mm), Specifications and types (Bench Mounted, Walk In, Double Fronted, Integral Scrubber, HF Type, Thin Wall Bench Mounted) to meet your requirements and safe extraction.

Unsure of what type to go for? Our lab furniture suppliers can help, just get in touch.

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Safety Cabinets

If you prefer fixed, robust benching or modular benching that offers flexibility and reconfiguration, our laboratory furniture manufacturers can deliver the perfect solution.

Whether you need Class I, II or III to handle Hazard Group 1 to 4 pathogens we can recommend suitable furniture suppliers.

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Specialist & Other Requirements

If you have any specific needs such as Cold Room or Clean Room installation services, Industrial Gases, Liquid Nitrogen, Non-ionising Radiation (LASER), Plumbing, Temperature & Humidity Control or other, we can help.

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