Biosafety Terms and Definitions

Risk Group 1 – Microorganisms not known to cause disease in healthy adult humans (Bacillus subtilis, infectious canine hepatitis)

Risk Group 2 – Indigenous, moderate-risk microorganisms and toxins associated with human disease of varying severity (Hepatitis B virus, Salmonella species, botulinum neurotoxin). Preventatives and/or therapeutics are often available. These pathogens are generally manipulated at Biosafety Level 2 which is similar to a typical university or hospital laboratory.

Risk Group 3 – Indigenous or exotic agents where the potential for infection by aerosol exists and disease may have serious to lethal consequences (Yellow fever virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis). Preventatives and/or therapeutics may be available. These pathogens are typically manipulated at Biosafety Level 3 which is also referred to as “high containment”.

Risk Group 4 – Dangerous and exotic microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease (Lassa fever virus, Ebola virus, Marburg virus). Preventatives and/or therapeutics are not usually available. These pathogens are manipulated at Biosafety Level 4 which is also referred to as “maximum containment”. 

Decontamination – Disinfection or sterilization of infected articles to make them suitable for use (6 log reduction in microbial load).

Disinfection – Selective elimination of certain undesirable microorganisms in order to prevent their transmission (e.g., 1:10 bleach solution wipe down of BSC) 

BSC (Class II) – Biological Safety Cabinet. An enclosure designed to protect the worker, product and environment from exposure to microbiological agents through filtration and airflow.

BSC (Class III) – “Glovebox”. An enclosure providing the highest level of microbial containment, designed to protect the worker, product and environment from exposure to microbiological agents. Work is performed in the gas-tight enclosure through arm-length gloves.