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Biosafety Level

ATCC products are sent with the condition that you are responsible for their safe storage, handling, and use. ATCC is not liable for damages or injuries resulting from the receipt and/or use of ATCC materials.

Scientist in biohazard suit streaking bacterial plates in hood

ATCC has classified cultures and related products by biosafety level (BSL) for the purposes of packaging for safe shipment. The classification is based on an assessment of the potential risk with regard to U.S. Public Health Service guidelines, background information on the material provided by the depositor, and review of the material by ATCC scientists. Each item is evaluated individually, and in some cases the ATCC assigned biosafety level is more restrictive. Those items in BSL-1 are not known to cause disease in healthy adult humans. Materials in BSL-2 present a moderate risk and should be handled under BSL-2 guidelines. Handling of BSL-3 strains requires the use of BSL-3 laboratory practices and containment. All infectious materials should be handled under the supervision of a competent and knowledgeable scientist. It is ultimately the responsibility of the recipient and their institution to determine the biosafety level as well as work with the material under the appropriate containment for the laboratory manipulations being performed

The website for the CDC's Office of Health and Safety has complete descriptions of the biosafety levels in the text of the publication Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), 5th Edition (HHS Publication No. (CDC) 93-8395. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health; U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington DC; 2007). It is available in its entirety online. Information on agent risk assessment may be found in the Agent Summary Statements of this publication.

Biosafety Levels
Biosafety Level 1
Electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

If you work in a lab that is designated a BSL-1, the microbes there are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults and present minimal potential hazard to laboratorians and the environment. An example of a microbe that is typically worked with at a BSL-1 is a nonpathogenic strain of E. coli.

Biosafety Level 2
Staphylococcus aureus

BSL-2 builds upon BSL-1. If you work in a lab that is designated a BSL-2, the microbes there pose moderate hazards to laboratorians and the environment. The microbes are typically indigenous and associated with diseases of varying severity. An example of a microbe that is typically worked with at a BSL-2 laboratory is Staphylococcus aureus.

Biosafety Level 3
Mycobacterium tuberculosis

BSL-3 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-2. If you work in a lab that is designated BSL-3, the microbes there can be either indigenous or exotic, and they can cause serious or potentially lethal disease through respiratory transmission. Respiratory transmission is the inhalation route of exposure. One example of a microbe that is typically worked with in a BSL-3 laboratory is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

The actual risk associated with handling a biological agent depends not only on the nature of the agent, but also on the laboratory manipulations employed during its handling.It is incumbent upon each recipient of an ATCC culture or product to fully assess the potential risk of working with it in their laboratory. To help you in that assessment we have provided the references below.