4.1 Biohazardous Agents/Material

A "biohazardous agent" is generally an agent that is biological in nature, capable of self replication and possesses the capacity to produce deleterious effects upon biological organisms.  A biohazardous material is any material that contains or has been contaminated by a biohazardous agent. In addition, the University considers any material originating in medical areas, patient care, and research as biohazardous. 

Biohazardous agents include, but are not limited to:

  • viruses and oncogenic viruses
  • bacteria
  • rickettsia
  • chlamydia
  • parasites
  • fungi
  • recombinant DNA (rDNA)
  • cultured animal cells and potentially biohazardous agents they may contain
  • human clinical specimens (tissues, fluids, etc.)
  • tissues from experimental animals (including animal dander)

Containment and safe handling of potentially biohazardous materials require strict adherence to prudent microbiological practices.  Procedures and practices are outlined within the section on Biosafety Level Criteria (see page 25).  The general risk group/Biosafety level number designation to which organisms have been assigned can be found in the NIH Guidelines and in the BMBL .  In many cases, the risk group of the agent is the same as the biosafety level designation.  These classifications are based on activities typically associated with the growth and manipulation of the quantities and concentrations of infectious agents required to accomplish identification or typing.  Additional precautions and increased levels of primary and secondary containment may be indicated in certain situations.  Areas where increased safety measures may be needed include activities involving large volumes and/or concentrated preparations ("production quantities"), activities which are likely to produce aerosols or those that are otherwise intrinsically hazardous.

When working with biohazardous materials, it is of primary importance that procedures are followed consistently.  Additionally, motivation, critical judgment and specific safety knowledge regarding the material or agent are essential for ensuring the protection of all personnel, the public and the environment.