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Vertebrate Animal Biosafety Level Criteria for Vivarium Research Facilities

BMBL5 provides guidance for the use of experimentally infected animals housed in indoor research facilities (e.g., vivaria), and is also useful in the maintenance of laboratory animals that may naturally harbor zoonotic infectious agents. Laboratory animal facilities are a special type of laboratory. As a general principle, the biosafety level (facilities, practices, and operational requirements) recommended for working with infectious agents in vivo and in vitro are comparable.

The animal room can present unique problems. In the animal room, the activities of the animals themselves can present unique hazards not found in standard microbiological laboratories. Animals may generate aerosols, they may bite and scratch, and they may be infected with a zoonotic agent. The co-application of Biosafety Levels and the Animal Biosafety Levels are determined by a protocol-driven risk assessment.

Facilities for laboratory animals used in studies of infectious or non-infectious disease should be physically separate from other activities such as animal production and quarantine, clinical laboratories, and especially from facilities providing patient care. Traffic flow that will minimize the risk of cross contamination should be incorporated into the facility design.

The recommendations detailed in BMBL5 Section V describe four combinations of practices, safety equipment, and facilities for experiments with animals involved in infectious disease research and other studies that may require containment. These four combinations, designated Animal Biosafety Levels (ABSL) 1-4, provide increasing levels of protection to personnel and to the environment, and are recommended as minimal standards for activities involving infected laboratory animals. The four ABSLs describe animal facilities and practices applicable to work with animals infected with agents assigned to Biosafety Levels 1-4, respectively. Investigators that are inexperienced in conducting these types of experiments should seek help in designing their experiments from individuals who are experienced in this special work.

In addition to the animal biosafety levels described in Section V, the USDA has developed facility parameters and work practices for handling agents of agricultural significance. Appendix D of BMBL5 includes a discussion on Animal Biosafety Level 3 Agriculture (BSL-3-Ag). USDA requirements are unique to agriculture because of the necessity to protect the environment from pathogens of economic or environmental impact. Appendix D also describes some of the enhancements beyond BSL/ABSL-3 that may be required by USDA-APHIS when working in the laboratory or vivarium with certain veterinary agents of concern.

Animal facility standards and practices are detailed in

Care of research animals is the responsibility of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.


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