American Society for Microbiology
Journal of Clinical Microbiology
The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene challenged Wisconsin laboratories to examine their biosafety practices and improve their culture of biosafety. One hundred three clinical and public health laboratories completed a questionnaire-based, microbiology-focused biosafety risk assessment. Greater than 96% of the respondents performed activities related to specimen processing, direct microscopic examination, and rapid nonmolecular testing, while approximately 60% performed culture interpretation. Although they are important to the assessment of risk, data specific to patient occupation, symptoms, and travel history were often unavailable to the laboratory and, therefore, less contributory to a microbiology-focused biosafety risk assessment than information on the specimen source and test requisition. Over 88% of the respondents complied with more than three-quarters of the mitigation control measures listed in the survey. Facility assessment revealed that subsets of laboratories that claim biosafety level 1, 2, or 3 status did not possess all of the biosafety elements considered minimally standard for their respective classifications. Many laboratories reported being able to quickly correct the minor deficiencies identified. Task assessment identified deficiencies that trended higher within the general (not microbiology-specific) laboratory for core activities, such as packaging and shipping, direct microscopic examination, and culture modalities solely involving screens for organism growth. For traditional microbiology departments, opportunities for improvement in the cultivation and management of highly infectious agents, such as acid-fast bacilli and systemic fungi, were revealed. These results derived from a survey of a large cohort of small- and large-scale laboratories suggest the necessity for continued microbiology-based understanding of biosafety practices, vigilance toward biosafety, and enforcement of biosafety practices throughout the laboratory setting.