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Proper Sterilization & Disposal of Biohazardous Waste in Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By | Life Science & Cell Culture | No Comments

As a distributor of laboratory autoclave sterilizers, which can be used for decontamination of biowaste to prevent dispersal of biohazardous material, we have been closely monitoring developments with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV / SARS-CoV-2), also known as COVID-19.

Handling, processing, and disposal of waste thought to be infected with coronavirus (2019-nCoV / SARS-CoV-2), including but not limited to coronavirus (COVID-19) Real-Time PCR assays (testing kits) require strict adherence to laboratory biosafety protocol as outlined by organizations including the WHO (World Health Organization), CDC (Center for Disease Control) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Please find select information and resources on laboratory biosafety related to the proper sterilization and disposal of waste containing coronavirus (2019-nCoV / SARS-CoV-2) specimens, PCR Assays (testing kits) and other disposable items used in coronavirus (COVID-19) laboratory research and testing.

Autoclaves and Safe Disposal of Laboratory Biowaste 

As outlined in numerous guidelines covering the safe disposal of laboratory biowaste, the use of autoclave sterilizers to deactivate pathogens and decontaminate potentially infectious waste prior to disposal is integral in preventing the spread of disease to laboratory workers, waste management personnel and the general public.

The importance of biowaste sterilization is reflected in the core facility design requirements in the WHO’s Laboratory biosafety guidance related to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which states that “appropriate methods for the decontamination of waste, for example, disinfectants and autoclaves, must be available in proximity to the laboratory.”¹

As a fundamental objective of biosafety programs to contain potentially harmful pathogens, in the CDC’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, it is recommended that laboratories of all BSLs (biosafety levels) not only create secondary barriers which include separating laboratory work areas from public access, making available decontamination facilities (e.g., autoclave), and handwashing facilities.²

Managing Waste Associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For laboratories handling specimens potentially containing coronavirus (2019-nCoV / SARS-CoV-2), one of the most critical biosafety tasks is managing waste that includes but not limited to real-time PCR assays (test kits) and other disposables including gloves, pipette tips, and vessels containing specimens.  Noting the principle that all samples should be handled as if they are infectious³, following the proper biosafety precautions includes the decontamination of all waste that has come into contact with all specimens prior to disposal.

At Biosafety Level (BSL) 2, the advised level for handling and processing of COVID-19 test specimens potentially containing coronavirus (2019-nCoV / SARS-CoV-2)⁴, numerous sources cite the use of autoclaves and other decontamination methods to treat biowaste before disposal.

In Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC instructs “handle laboratory waste from testing suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient specimens as all other biohazardous waste in the laboratory.”⁵  According to CDC BSL 2 guidelines, all laboratory waste, including all cultures, stocks, and other potentially infectious materials should be treated via autoclave, chemical disinfection, incineration, or other validated decontamination methods before disposal.⁶

In some cases, guidelines explicitly endorse the use of autoclaves to treat laboratory waste before disposal, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA, which clearly states on its COVID-19 safety guideline page to “use an autoclave to inactivate infectious material in all waste prior to disposal.”⁷

Autoclaves for Biosafety in Waste Management

As outlined, numerous guidelines endorse the use of autoclaves to inactivate potentially infectious laboratory waste prior to disposal, as part of creating secondary barriers that prevent the infectious disease from spreading to laboratory workers, waste management personnel, and the general public.  When moving to a higher BSL, the proximity of autoclaves moves from within the facility, to within the laboratory to being a double-door pass-through autoclave adjacent to a Class III biological safety cabinet.⁸

This positive relationship between higher safety needs and the proximity of the autoclave may suggest that the closer an autoclave is to the area in which potentially infectious pathogens are being handled, the safer it is in preventing the potential spread of the virus within and outside the laboratory and potentially infecting countless individuals.

Laboratories in immediate need of a primary or secondary autoclave may be interested in learning about TOMY top-loading autoclaves.  Due to their compact size, portability, a setup that requires no installation and ability to operate anywhere in proximity to a source of power, they can be placed next to a biosafety cabinet or at the end of a workbench in any laboratory.

For information on features, pricing, and availability, contact us at Click here to learn about the best autoclave for your applications.


Protect yourself from cell culture contamination

By | Life Science & Cell Culture | No Comments

Anyone who has ever worked in a cell culture lab has experienced it—contamination.

Ranging from minor annoyance to major catastrophe, contamination causes loss of time, money, and effort spent in developing cultures and setting up experiments.

Contaminants can affect all cell characteristics (e.g. growth, metabolism, and morphology) and contribute to unreliable or erroneous experimental results. Cell culture contamination will likely create a need for experiments to be repeated, resulting in frustrating time delays and costly reagent wastage. Data derived from undetected contaminated cultures can end up published in scientific journals, allowing others to build hypotheses from dubious results. Cell culture contamination costs millions of dollars every year in the United States alone, and it seems to be only getting worse. While the problem will not and cannot ever be fully defeated, however, it can be fought.

Protect yourself from cell culture contamination

The first step in avoiding cell culture contamination lies in being aware of potential sources, and building practices that reduce the risk of contamination from those sources.

Before being allowed to work in a tissue culture facility, laboratory personnel should be given full practical training in aseptic cell culture techniques by an experienced staff member. While each laboratory will have their own standard operating procedures related to use of incubators, autoclaving, labeling of cultures, media storage, and waste disposal, guidelines typically include the following tips:

1. Select the Right Equipment

  • Choose an incubator with that has design features that will help prevent contamination
  • Copper housings and parts can fight contamination—choose them when appropriate
  • Internal HEPA filters will reduce or eliminate many airborne particles

2. Use Good Aseptic Technique

  • Use sealed culture vessels whenever possible
  • Avoid pouring media
  • Use clean lab coats and restrict them to the cell culture area
  • Work with one cell line at a time
  • Leave the hood running 24 hrs a day

3.  Keep Your Incubator Clean

  • Remove humidity pan, shelves, shelf supports, and shields weekly and autoclave all stainless steel parts
  • Use disinfectants as appropriate and rinse with fresh distilled water
  • Wipe down chamber with disinfectant and allow to dry
  • Disinfect all access ports, electrical pass-through, shaft holes etc. and carefully clean around sensors

4. Practice Good Housekeeping

  • Dirty water baths can be a source of contamination and generate aerosols
  • Waste containers provide a source of heavily contaminated materials and should not be located near the hood
  • Pest control—mice, ants, roaches, flies, and mites, can all be sources of contamination. The presence of foodor plants in the lab can attract these undesirable guests

5. Routinely Monitor for Contamination

  • Perhaps the best strategy for reducing contamination is to be proactive and routinely monitor for it
  • Supplies, media, work areas, and cultures should be routinely tested for contamination

6. Use Antibiotics Sparingly

  • Overuse of antibiotics can lead to poor aseptic techniques and resistance
  • Use antibiotics only strategically to prevent the loss of critical cultures

Although the contamination of cell cultures cannot be eliminated completely, it can be managed. With an effective prevention program, you can reduce the likelihood of cell culture contamination and the potential for damaging your reputation, too.

Explore our Life Science product range include antibiotics and antimycotics for microbiological/mammalian cell culture selection or prophylactic control of contamination due to bacteria, fungi, mycoplasma, or yeast.