Safety Alerts Archive 2012

Laboratory Safety Alert: Death of a Laboratory Researcher

Laboratory researcher died from bacterial infection

Neisseria meningitidis is a gram-negative bacterium with a wide range of clinical manifestation from mild soar throat to fatal meningitis.

Neisseria meningitidis is a gram-negative bacterium with a wide range of clinical manifestation from mild sore throat to fatal meningitis.

A laboratory researcher conducting studies involving bacterial meningitis and septicemia at the San Francisco Veterans Medical Center, Northern California Institute for Research and Education died from an apparent bacterial meningitis infection on April 28, 2012.

The state laboratory confirmed that the researcher was infected with Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that causes bacterial meningitis infections. Authorities have not confirmed if the researcher acquired the infection from the laboratory or elsewhere. It was confirmed that the researcher was working with serotype B, for which there is no current immunization. The incident is being investigated by city, state, and federal authorities including the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More information regarding this incident is available at

Neisseria meningitidis

Neisseria meningitidis is a bacterium that causes meningitis and sepsis. Meningitis is the inflammation of membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain and is a common form of meningococcal disease. The symptoms include severe headache, fever, stiff neck, and skin rash. It is normally spread from person to person through respiratory droplets from infected individuals or direct contact with respiratory secretions, including saliva. Persons who are ill or asymptomatic carriers may spread the infection.

If you have any questions or for more information on medical care and precautions, please call Boston University Research Occupational Health (ROHP) at 617-414-7647.

Additional information and resources are also available online:

Neisseria meningitidis Agent Information Sheet (AIS):

ROHP treatment and reporting:

General Laboratory Safety Guidelines

  • When working with serotypes, personnel should be vaccinated with available vaccines.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment during manipulation to protect from direct skin contact and droplet aerosols, such as laboratory coats, gloves, safety glasses, masks, or full-face splash shields.
  • Manipulate within a biological safety cabinet (BSC).
  • Follow safe BSC practices and procedures, including removal and replacement of gloves right after direct manipulations of contaminated materials in the BSC and before conducting any other procedures outside the BSC.
  • Follow Biological Safety Level 3 (BSL-3) practices and procedures when conducting activities with a high potential for droplet or aerosol production and for activities involving production quantities or high concentrations of infectious materials.
  • Disinfect and clean up spills immediately.
  • Animal studies should be performed under Animal Biological Safety Level 2 (ABSL-2) conditions.
  • Follow reporting procedures in the event of an incident, exposure, or spill.