The American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) sets the standard for biosafety levels and laboratory requirements in the United States. To mitigate the risk of infection and contamination from pathogenic microorganisms, the ABSA has developed four distinct biosafety levels that, when properly implemented, should contain harmful biological agents and prevent contamination.

What Biosafety Level Should My Laboratory Be?

Customers often ask if their laboratories meet the biosafety level required to handle our cell products and reagents. All of the cells and reagents in our inventory are safe to handle in a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory. If your lab meets the safety standards and follows required protocols indicated for Biosafety Level 2 labs, you can work with any of our products.

All of our human cells should be handled in Biosafety Level 2 labs. While we do test our donors for the common bloodborne pathogens (HIV 1 and 2, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, Chagas disease, West Nile virus) there is the potential for new, emerging diseases. All human source material, blood, body fluids and tissues are recommended to be treated as potentially infectious.

If you plan to work with other biological agents, reference our infographic below as an easy guide to biosafety levels. For more details and specific guidelines, visit the CDC’s biosafety resource center.

What if My Lab is Not Specifically Setup for Biology Research?

Labs that are not specifically set up for biology or microbiology research should consult the CDC’s recommendations for Biosafety Level 2 labs when using our products. Work areas should be cleaned after handling cells using a cleaner known to kill a wide range of microbes. Bleach is a good option but is corrosive. Phenolic compounds are also good but have been found to pose risks to human health. Cleaners should be used properly, allowing adequate contact time and wet time.

For more specific cleaning and handling methods, see our list of frequently asked questions, reference our research protocols, or submit your question online and get a fast response.


Guide to Biosafety Levels

Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1)

Suitable for well-characterized agents not known to cause disease in healthy humans.

Lab Practices
Standard practices
Open lab tables, benches

Safety Equipment
Lab coats, gloves, eye protection as needed

Facility Construction
Sink required for hand washing
Doors separating lab from facility

Nonpathogenic strains of E. coli
Astarte’s assay kits and mouse cells

Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2)

Suitable for microbes that pose moderate hazards to individuals and the environment. All BSL-1 safety standards apply.

Lab Practices
Restricted access when work in progress

Safety Equipment
Face shields as needed
Biological safety cabinet used when sprays/splashes can cause infection
Autoclave for decontamination

Facility Construction
Self-closing doors
Eyewash station

Staphylococcus aureus
Astarte’s human cells

Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3)

Suitable for indigenous or exotic microbes that can cause serious infection through respiratory transmission. All BSL-2 safety standards apply.

Lab Practices
Medical surveillance available
Proper immunizations

Safety Equipment
Personal protective equipment mandatory
Respirators may be required

Facility Construction
Hands-free sink and eyewash near exit
Exhaust air cannot be recirculated
Sustained directional airflow
Two sets of self-closing and locking doors

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4)

Suitable for exotic and dangerous microbes that have a high risk of aerosol transmission, can be fatal, and may not have treatments or vaccines. All BSL-3 safety standards apply.

Lab Practices
Change clothing before entering
Decontaminate all materials and shower before exiting

Safety Equipment
Class III biological safety cabinet
Full body, air-supplied, positive pressure suit

Facility Construction
A separate building or isolated zone
Dedicated supply and exhaust air
Vacuum lines and decontamination systems

Ebola, Marburg and smallpox viruses

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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