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Overview of Laboratory Risks

Brucellosis is the most commonly reported laboratory-associated bacterial infection.

A number of factors contribute to the risk of an accidental Brucella exposure, including:

  • lack of experience working with the organism
  • unknown or unidentified samples that arrive for analysis
  • work performed on a Brucella isolate on an open bench, not under BSL-3 conditions.

Certain characteristics of the bacterium, such as its low infectious dose and ease of aerosolization also contribute to the risk of infection by the organism in a laboratory setting.

Guidance for exposures to RB51 vaccine differs from other Brucella exposures. For more on RB51, please see the following pages:

Reported activities related to Brucella exposure include:

  • sniffing bacteriological cultures
  • direct contact with cut or abraded skin
  • mouth pipetting
  • inoculations
  • sprays into eyes, nose, and mouth

Those at risk of infection include those who are:

  • practicing a specifically implicated procedure (such as above)
  • manipulating Brucella isolate on an open bench without the use of recommended practices and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • standing or sitting within five feet of any manipulation of Brucella isolate on an open bench
  • present in a laboratory during a Brucella aerosol-generating event (as described in Assessing Laboratory Risk Level and PEP)

For those at risk of exposure, recommendations will vary depending on whether the risk is high or low. This chart can guide lab workers on how to determine their risk level.

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