In a laboratory setting, scientists and technicians grow and study all different types of bacteria and other pathogens. A majority of the time, it is carried out in a controlled, safe environment. However, there is always a chance of cross-contamination. If a researcher removes his gloves incorrectly, or solution leaks out of a pipette, whatever they intend to grow in a petri dish can be transferred to a countertop, or even further, to a human.
The following bacteria can commonly be found growing in laboratories, and if handled incorrectly and left to grow in an uncontrolled environment could prove very dangerous.
In May of 2012, a twenty-five year old lab assistant died after he was infected by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The man died 17 hours after initial signs and symptoms of of meningococcus, the illness caused by this particular type of bacteria. Although outbreaks of this illness in the U.S. are rare, and infections of lab staff are even more rare, it is very important to ensure no cross contamination of Neisseria meningitidis occurs in the laboratory. According to data from the CDC, half of all lab workers who are exposed to this type of bacteria eventually die from it.
Escherichia coli is very commonly found in labs across the country due to its usefulness in researching protein function and other various reasons. While most strains of E. coli handled in the lab are not harmful to humans, research done on Escherichia coli O157:H7, an enteric pathogen, shows it can be dangerous. The sickness caused by this strain of bacteria can cause abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and fever among others. Further, if acquired in the laboratory and accompanied by poor hygiene, it can be spread to others outside of the lab.
Otherwise known as C.diff, this bacteria has risen to infamy due to high levels of healthcare acquired infections associated with it. In 2011, almost half a million infections were caused in the United States. Because of the high numbers of infections, lab technicians commonly come across it while performing patient testing. Transmitting C.diff can occur if laboratory staff come into contact with the bacterium, whether it be on a surface or any other method, and then come into contact with another person.
Campylobacter is considered to be the most prevalent cause of illness among the enteric bacteria. The bacterium causes the disease known as Campylobacteriosis, and can cause severe, bloody diarrhea. The campylobacter bacterium is very infective and only about 500 cells are necessary to cause illness. Because of this fact, very small amounts of the pathogen are required on surfaces in the lab to acquire infection.
Of course, there exists many protocols in the lab to prevent cross contamination as well as lab acquired infections. However, protocols are not always followed. If lab staff do not change their gloves consistently, if they culture a sample without gloves, if they splash solution with a pipette, or many other possible ways of transmission to other surfaces, it is possible the infection can come into contact with humans. Because of this, it is very important that regular surface disinfection occur in the lab setting. A good disinfectant will remove a majority of harmful pathogens from most, if not all surfaces in a laboratory.
When selecting a disinfectant, it is important to find one that is an EPA, hospital grade disinfectant. Selective Micro Technologies offers just that, with many other advantages such as ease of use and low corrosivity. To learn more about disinfecting your lab with pure chlorine dioxide, please call us today at 855.256.8299 or visit our lab and clinical page.