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LABORATORY PROCEDURES FOR ANIMAL & HUMAN CELL LINES

REFERENCE NO: AHC/1998/1/4


TITLE: POTENTIAL HAZARDS RELATING TO ANIMAL CELLS


INTRODUCTION [1]

Advances in containment and remote devices have improved the protection of the worker against potential biohazards. Fortunately these have been readily adopted because they also protect the product/cell culture from contamination;

Adventitious microorganisms

Animal cells themselves appear to represent no specific risk to laboratory workers. Recorded accidental inoculation of animal cells into human operators gave rise to cellular nodules, but these regressed. However, animal cell cultures may contain bacteria, fungi and endogenous or exogenous viruses. Whilst contaminants such as bacteria and fungi may present some risk, they are usually immediately apparent where gross contamination results in animal cell culture turbidity. Such cultures should be discard immediately unless replacement of the infected culture is impossible. If absolutely necessary contaminated cultures can be recovered, contaminant-free with the use of proprietary antimicrobial agents, although this is not so straight forward for contamination with fungi and other spore-forming organisms where residual organisms and spores may be extremely difficult to eradicate.

Infection with virus and mycoplasma can be such more insidious, however no laboratory infection has been associated with a cell line considered to be virus-free. Infection has arisen from primary animal cells (mostly primate in origin) harbouring herpesvirus, simian virus, haatan virus and Marburg virus. More recently, cases of seroconversion in laboratory workers handling simian immunodeficiency virus at different sites have been reported from the US Centers for Diseases Control. Thus cell cultures may carry a significant risk of infection.

CLASSIFICATION OF POTENTIAL RISK FROM ANIMAL CELLS

The potential hazards associated with the use of biologicals produced from animal cells fall into 4 categories:

  • Contamination by other cells
  • DNA contamination
  • Virus contamination
  • The occurrence of transforming proteins

The classification into high, medium and low categories of risk is closely linked to the minimum acceptable standards for laboratory handling of infectious organisms

 

Risk

 

High

  • Uncharacterised cell line
  • Primary cells from blood, lymphoid cells and neural tissue of human or simian origin
  • Blood of human or non human origin
  • Human pituitary caprine and ovine origin
  • Human and bovine from central nervous system cells
  • Pathogen deliberately introduced or known endogenous contaminant

Medium

  • Mammalian non-haematogeneous cells such as fibroblasts and epithelial cells
  • Cell lines/strains not fully authenticated or characterised

Low

  • Cells derived from avian and invertebrate tissues
  • Well characterised/authenticated finite cell lines of human or primate origin
  • Non-human, non-primate cell lines which have been authenticated have low risk of endogenous pathogens and present no human health risk

[1] See 'Risk assessment' , H. Sheeley, in 'Safety in cell and tissue culture' , edited by G. Stacey, A. Doyle, P. Hambleton in 'Safety in cell and tissue culture' , edited by G. Stacey, A. Doyle, P. Hambleton, 1998, p.173-188


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