Biological Agents

The Office of Research Compliance (ORC) has identified a list of biological agents approved for use within the Boston University/Boston Medical Center research community that have the potential to cause laboratory acquired infection (LAI). While LAI is a rare event, the research community continues to take proactive measures to further mitigate risk to researchers, safety personnel and medical providers.

The list of biological agents with the potential to cause LAI is dynamic and will be routinely reviewed for pathogens that researchers are proposing to use. As new agents approved by the IBC are introduced into the laboratory environment, they may be added to the list or as agents are no longer being used they will be removed from the list. Contact the IBC Office at ibc@bu.edu for the current list. 

Principal Investigators, researchers and any other personnel listed on approved Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) protocols involving these biological agents with the potential to cause LAI must receive agent specific training as a condition for IBC approval.

ROHP will support the efforts of the ORC and IBC to mitigate the potential and effect of LAI as follows:

1) Issue Agent Specific Identification cards. These cards have been issued to all personnel currently working with any of the biological agents included on the IBC list and, in the future, these cards will be issued to any personnel added to existing or included in new research protocols using these agents after IBC approval has been granted.

The card is provided to facilitate prompt medical attention and appropriate medical care in the event the card holder should experience symptoms or illness while away from BU/BMC that may be related to activities or exposures with the specific biological agents listed on the card.

When seeking treatment for these symptoms or illness (primary care physician, local hospital, ED, etc…), present this card to the attending physician or medical provider so that they can contact ROHP by phone or visit our website to get more information about the hazards, symptoms and treatment for these biological agents. Physicians can utilize this information to formulate the appropriate diagnosis as many diseases can have flu-like symptoms.

2) Prepare Agent Information Sheets. ROHP has worked together with the Office of Research Safety to prepare individual information sheets focused on laboratory safety. The sheets contain agent specific information on safety and handling precautions, recognition of transmission and symptoms, medical contact information and immediate first aid in the event of an exposure.

These sheets are available on the ROHP website and will be reviewed with and issued to each PI and researcher by ROHP as part of the medical clearance process prior to IBC protocol approval.

3) Prepare Exposure and Laboratory Acquired Infection Protocols. ROHP is working together with representatives of BMC’s Emergency and Infectious Disease departments to prepare agent specific protocols that provide instructions for medical and research personnel to follow in the event of an exposure or Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) incident. Separate treatment algorithms for laboratory exposures and post-exposure illnesses will be prepared for each agent for medical personnel to follow in the event of an incident.

The algorithms are accompanied by other agent specific medical and safety information that encompasses transmission, symptoms, safety precautions, immediate first aid, emergency medical contact information, diagnosis and laboratory testing, vaccinations, and post-exposure prophylaxis and treatment.

These protocols will be available on the ROHP website in the near future. These agent specific protocols will also be reviewed with and issued to each PI and researcher by ROHP as part of the medical clearance process prior to IBC protocol approval.