Biocontainment: concept, also called laboratory biosafety, pertaining to microbiology laboratories in which the physical containment of highly pathogenic organisms (bacteria) or agents (viruses) is required, usually by isolation in environmentally and biologically secure cabinets or rooms, to prevent accidental infection of workers or release into the surrounding community during scientific research.

Biological agent: a microorganism or a component of a microorganism, whether natural or synthesized, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and microbial toxins.

Biological Safety or Biosafety: the application of knowledge, techniques, and equipment to prevent personal, laboratory, and environmental exposure to potentially infectious agents or biohazards. Biosafety defines the containment conditions under which infectious agents can be safely manipulated. The objective of containment is to confine biohazards and to reduce the potential exposure of the laboratory worker, persons outside of the laboratory, and the environment to potentially infectious agents. It can be accomplished through the following means:

Primary Containment: Protection of personnel and the immediate laboratory environment through good microbiological technique (laboratory practice) and the use of appropriate safety equipment.

Secondary Containment: Protection of the environment external to the laboratory from exposure to infectious materials through a combination of facility design and operational practices.

Combinations of laboratory practices, containment equipment, and special laboratory design can be made to achieve different levels of physical containment.

The most important element in maintaining a safe work environment is strict adherence to good microbiological and laboratory practices and techniques. Everybody working with infectious agents or potentially infected materials must be aware of the potential risks. In addition, they must be trained and proficient in the practices and techniques required for handling such material. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator or person in charge of the laboratory to provide or arrange for appropriate training of all personnel.

Biosafety Level (BSL): the level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level 1 to the highest at level 4. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specified these levels in the publication Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th Ed. (December 2009).

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