Biohazardous Agents

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Biohazardous agents, sometimes also referred to as infectious agents, are organisms capable of producing infection or disease in humans, animals, or plants. They include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Working safely with biohazardous agents

Understand the Risk Group of the agent

UWM categorizes agents into Risk Groups (RGs) as described by the CDC and NIH in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) and the NIH Guidelines. Tables that outline the appropriate RG for various agents can be found at the links below:

Conduct a risk assessment

Use your risk assessment to determine the appropriate Biosafety Level for your work. In your risk assessment, consider the following:

  • Inherent Hazards of the Agent: These are characteristics of the agent itself that are often considered in assigning the agent’s Risk Group, such as:
    • Ability to cause infection and/or disease, severity of the associated disease, and availability of preventive measures or effective treatments
    • Routes of transmission
    • Infectious dose
    • Environmental stability
    • Host range
    • Potential threats to local environment (e.g., exotic, invasive)
    • Other genetic characteristics (e.g., antibiotic resistance)
  • Hazards Associated with Lab Procedures: These hazards are specific to the types of manipulations and procedures you will conduct with the agent in your lab. In particular, consider the following:
    • Quantity & concentration of the agent to be used
    • Aerosol- and/or droplet-generating procedures & equipment
    • Use of sharps
    • Use of live animals

Helpful resources to conduct your risk assessment include:

Submit your work for approval by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

PIs or Instructors who wish to use biohazardous agents in their laboratories must submit their work for approval by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

  • Submit to the IBC online via iManager. Click here to access the submission system and submission instructions. Fill out the form as completely as possible, and provide any additional pertinent information that may assist the committee in assessing risks associated with your work.
  • The IBC will determine the final biosafety level appropriate for the work proposed. Work should not begin until IBC approval is granted.

Complete required training

Biosafety training is required for all individuals conducting research with biohazardous agents. Find complete biosafety training requirements on the Biosafety Training webpage.