Biosafety Levels

Posted by Leanne Kodsman on

The regulations and recommendations for biosafety in the United States are contained in the document Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The document defines four ascending levels of containment, referred to as biosafety levels 1 through 4, and describes the microbiological practices, safety equipment, and facility safeguards for the corresponding level of risk associated with handling a particular agent.


The regulations and recommendations for biosafety in the United States are contained in the document Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The document defines four ascending levels of containment, referred to as biosafety levels 1 through 4, and describes the microbiological practices, safety equipment, and facility safeguards for the corresponding level of risk associated with handling a particular agent.

Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1): BSL-1 is the basic level of protection common to most research and clinical laboratories, and is appropriate for agents that are not known to cause disease in normal, healthy humans.

Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3): BSL-3 is appropriate for indigenous or exotic agents with a known potential for aerosol transmission, and for agents that may cause serious and potentially lethal infections.

Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2): BSL-2 is appropriate for moderate-risk agents known to cause human disease of varying severity by ingestion or through percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure. Most cell culture labs should be at least BSL-2, but the exact requirements depend upon the cell line used and the type of work conducted

Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4): BSL-4 is appropriate for exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease by infectious aerosols and for which no treatment is available. These agents are restricted to high containment laboratories.

For more information about the biosafety level guidelines, refer to Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th Edition, which is available for downloading at www.cdc.gov/od/ohs/biosfty/bmbl5/bmbl5toc.htm.

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